Court bars ADC from transferring 100,000-acre land in Kwale

Sahal Agro-Limited secures court order against Agricultural Development Corporation, alleging breach of 16-year lease agreement in Kwale County.

A private agricultural company has obtained a court order barring the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) from transferring or leasing 100,000-acre land in Kwale County.

Sahal Agro-Limited applied to the Environment and Land Court, accusing ADC of breaching a 16-year lease agreement by allowing third parties to invade the land.

The company claimed that it had signed a deal with ADC in 2019 to lease the land for sugar plantation and milling, but ADC reneged on the contract and allowed Mombasa Cement Limited to trespass on the property.

Justice Evans Makori issued an order restraining ADC and its CEO Mohamed Bulle from advertising, offering to lease, negotiating a lease, offering for sale or using as security the land comprised of Galana Ranch Block 1/1.

“An order is hereby issued directed at the defendants/respondents from advertising, offering to lease, negotiating a lease, offering for sale and/or security, putting up public notices in respect of land comprised of GALANA RANCH/ BLOCK 1/1 as identified in red in the sketch map attached to the lease and which is 5 kilometres from the banks of Galana River,” ruled Justice Makori.

Sahal’s director Abdullahi Hassan said in an affidavit that the company had paid Sh200 rent per acre and was entitled to a renewal of the lease for a further 16 years after the first period expired.

He said that the company had invested heavily in the land and was expecting to earn income from the sugar business.

However, he said that ADC had acted in bad faith and violated the lease agreement by allowing Mombasa Cement to encroach on the land.

“The plaintiff is the lawful proprietor of all that land containing approximately 100,000 acres being a portion of all that piece of land comprised of Galana Ranch Block one… The defendants have on several occasions sent their agents to interrupt the business activities being undertaken by the plaintiff without a justifiable cause,” Hassan stated.

Hassan added that ADC had also failed to honour a government directive in 2015 to halt operations on the land to pave the way for installation of an irrigation infrastructure.

He said that the company had agreed to stop the lease clock until the irrigation project was completed, but ADC later changed its mind and attempted to lease the same land to another party.

“The plaintiff avers that there cannot exist a lease between the first defendant and any other party over the suit property as there already exists lease between her and the first defendant (ADC) which is still in existence at the time of the impugned acts,” Hassan argued.

He said that the company had suffered loss and damage as a result of ADC’s actions and was entitled to compensation.

He also asked the court to order ADC to remove any third parties from the land and to respect the lease agreement.

“As a consequence of the defendant’s wrongful actions, the plaintiff has incurred and suffered loss and damage as earlier particularised for which the plaintiff is entitled to compensation. The defendants have acted oppressively, and arbitrarily thereby occasioning unconstitutional trespass in the suit property for which the plaintiff is entitled to compensation,” Hassan said.

Justice Makori ordered ADC, Bulle and Mombasa Cement to respond within 14 days.

The case will be heard on 4 December.