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Court orders squatters out of 120-acre KU land

By Kamau Muthoni | October 7th 2021

Kenyatta University has been fighting to evict trespassers for the past decade. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

A court has given Kenyatta University the greenlight to evict more than 10,000 squatters occupying 120 acres of its land.

The Environment and Lands Court, however, directed the university to settle with 670 squatters whom it had gifted 30 acres.

Justice Lucy Kimongoi also locked out the military from the land, which the university and squatters in Kamae area have been tussling over for more than a decade.

The Department of Defence had claimed that 60 acres of the disputed land belonged to Kahawa Barracks.

“An order of eviction is hereby issued against the defendants (squatters) and other trespassers from LR No 11026/2. A declaration is hereby issued that the occupation and use of a portion of LR No 11026/2 by the defendants and other trespassers is illegal,” ruled Justice Kimongoi.

The squatters were gifted the land in Kahawa West, Nairobi, by the government in the 1960s.

But in the court documents, they urged the judge to find that if the government had not gifted them the land, they would have had legal claim through the principle of adverse possession.

Adverse possession is the legal process whereby a non-owner occupant of a piece of land gains title and ownership of that land after a certain period of time.

Genuine squatters

The university, however, argued that the squatters had trespassed and declined to leave despite several reminders and demands to vacate. According to the institution, it had already hived off 30 acres of land for the genuine squatters.

The colonial government handed over its Kahawa army base, which comprised the Templar Barracks and other social amenities, to the Kenyan government in 1965.

The government converted the barracks to Kenyatta College in 1970. The institution was issued with a title deed for 150 acres on October 1, 1977, for 99 years. It was granted full university status in 1985 and changed its name to Kenyatta University.

In the case, KU argued that in 1984, it requested the provincial administration to evict squatters who had encroached on the land. The parties later brokered a deal and KU set aside 30.82 acres to resettle the trespassers. This portion was sub-divided and named Kamae Resettlement Scheme.

The university said that initially there were at least 670 squatters, with the rest coming in 2001 and encroaching on the property adjacent to Kamae. KU argued that following a failed attempt to evict them, it placed a caveat and published it in the defunct Kenya Times newspaper.

Francis Kamau, who testified on behalf of the squatters, claimed that he settled on the disputed land in 1964.

According to Mr Kamau, former President Jomo Kenyatta gave them the land in 1966 and allotment letters were issued in 2015. He said the initial gift was 30 acres but were later gifted an additional 70 acres.

Kamau said that former Nairobi Provincial Commissioner Cyrus Maina indicated to them that the Northern bypass was the boundary for their land.

He urged the court to dismiss KU’s case, and order the institution to pay costs.

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