The National Land Commission (NLC) has asked individuals settled on the conflict-torn Ben-Moi Farm in Uasin Gishu to respect the court ruling on their eviction.
Last Wednesday, one squatter died and a police officer was left nursing serious injuries after a land tussle on the farm went out of control. More than 300 squatters who claimed they have lived on the farm since 1948 confronted policemen who had come to evict them. Farm machinery and vehicles estimated to be worth over Sh15 million were burnt down by the squatters, prompting locals to side with policemen in the eviction during which they overpowered the squatters and burnt down over 50 houses.
NLC Chairman Muhammad Swazuri spoke on Sunday when he toured the area to ascertain the losses arising from conflicts between the land owner and alleged squatters. He said the court directive must be respected to achieve peaceful coexistence.
“The police were merely effecting a court order. The squatters must respect the directive since they failed to prove their ownership or challenge it through legal procedures, not destruction of property,” said Mr Swazuri.
The squatters and Kiptoo Kibogy, heir of the late Jonathan Kibogy who leased the land in the 1980s, have been in court since 1991 in a bid to find a solution to the ownership disputes. However, confrontations outside the court have continued.
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Evicted individuals claim they need to be allocated a portion of the 2,098-acre block of land under dispute. However, Mr Kiptoo insists that his father purchased the land rightfully and they could not be compelled what to do with their personal property.
“We have been in court several times and they have subsequently filed appeals and lost all attempts. The court approved us as the rightful owners and I am appalled that these people continue to destroy our property, making it difficult for us to access the land for development,” said Kiptoo.
Swazuri, who was accompanied by Commissioner Samuel Tororei of NLC, said the commission had no authority over the court ruling, which he urged both parties to uphold.
“The court made a decision after lengthy hearings and issued the ruling that favoured the Kibogy family. NLC has no mandate to challenge a court decision. It is unfortunate that there continues to be loss and damage of property because one party was not satisfied with the ruling,” he added.
Swazuri criticised the damaging of property by either side, saying it ignited the violence. He urged the dissatisfied parties to consider more amicable resolution processes to end the stalemate.
“We have begun probing the matter and will give a full report on June 11,” he said.
Swazuri further stated that the squatters had not made any application to the commission to be classified as landless and advised them to do so in order to get help.