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Court ends 40-year land dispute between Maasai clans

The judges said that all the members of the Ildamat, Kekonyoke, and Purko clans whose names appear in the register should all benefit from the equal share. [iStockphoto]

The Environment and Lands Court in Narok has ended a decades-long dispute over ownership of a 56,000-acre parcel of land between Maasai clans in Narok.

The dispute over the Ntulele Group ranch in Narok East sub-county has been in court for the last 40 years.

A three-judge bench of the Environment and Land Court last week ordered that the land comprised of the Ntulele adjudication section be divided equally among the 2,222 members of the Ildamat, Keekonyokie, and Purko whose names appear in the adjudication register.

Declared in 1970 as an adjudication section, the land has been a source of conflict between the populous Purko and minority Ildamat and Keekonyokie clans, which has led to bloodshed making it difficult to demarcate.

But in the judgment delivered on May 24 Justices Charles Mbogo, Maxwell Gicharu, and Emmanuel Washe declared that the subdivision was successfully conducted and a certificate issued in December 1982 and invited anyone with complaint to launch it within 60 days.

"It is our finding that by the time an adjudication section is declared complete, the adjudication map and list of members had been completed and this is a declaration that all persons whose names appear in the list are entitled to the land, hence the 2,222 whose names appear in the adjudication section are tenants in common and none should utilise a larger share than the other,” ruled the Judges.

Chief Justice Martha Koome constituted the bench after the Ildamat clan claimed the adjudication sections had been tampered with thus contravening their rights and might affect some of the 608 members of their clan who jointly with others from Purko and Keekonyokie clans own the 56,000 Ntulele Group ranch.

The Ildamat clan decried that the case has been dragging in court through successive regimes of Chief Justices.

They demanded to get an equal share of the land.

The court case gained momentum two years ago after the Ildamat moved to court to stop former President Uhuru Kenyatta's directive over the issuance of title deeds on the disputed land after the then Lands Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri and top Lands officials toured the area and later joined Governor Samuel Tunai in pledging to implement the presidential directive, terming the move critical in reconciling the three clans.

The development forced the Ildamat to move to court on June 11, 2022, through their advocate Kamau Kuria and Clevers Tanyasis they filed a petition at the High Court in Nairobi, seeking to stop the presidential directive, citing unfairness. The then Attorney General Kariuki Kihara and Dr Muraguri were named as respondents.

Mr Kuria argued that the president must have been misled on the matter since their was a court order on the group ranch.

They also wanted a November 26, 1992 notice purportedly creating new adjudication sections namely Nkorienito, Iloioborglunguny, Oltepesi, Shilare, Ntulele (Ildamat) among other sections such as Olosho Lolepunywa and Olenkomei be declared null and void for being unreasonable and arbitrary.

In their demands, they further wanted the purported September 26, 1986 sub-division of the parcel of land comprising the Ntulele adjudication section amongst Ildamat, Purko, and Keekonyokie clans to be declared illegal, null, and void.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the 2,222 persons contained in the adjudication register completed on December 1, 1982, are deemed to be tenants in common over the entire suite property known as Ntulele Adjudication Section," read the judgment.

The judges said that all the members of the Ildamat, Kekonyoke, and Purko clans whose names appear in the register should all benefit from the equal share.

But the Purko and Keekonyoke clans have opposed the judgement saying the 1982 register is outdated as the population has increased, insisting that the court should have allowed the residents to continue living in their current homes and the individuals who came from the time the adjudication was done should be considered as members.

George Esho, from the Purko clan, complained that their members formed seven group ranches within the adjudication section and sub-divided their land, wondering why the court discredited the group ranches formed by the community.

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