Court slams brakes on State bid to annex 410 acres of university land

KU Vice-Chancellor Paul Wainaina in tears after addressing staff on July 12, 2022. [Esther Jeruto, Standard]

The government has been stopped from hiving off 410 acres belonging to Kenyatta University.

Justice Oscar Angote of the Environment and Land Court issued the order following a petition by the Law Society of Kenya challenging attempts to force the university to surrender part of the land to Kenyatta  University Teaching and Referral Hospital (KUTRH), the World Health Organisation, and squatters.

“The government, its agents or anyone acting on its behalf are hereby restrained from implementing the directive issued by the Head of Public Service on July 7 for the university to surrender the land. They are also restrained from subdividing the land pending hearing of the suit,” ruled the judge.

Justice Angote also directed KU Council Chairman Prof Shem Migot-Adhola and Vice-Chancellor Prof Paul Wainana not to hand over the land’s title as ordered by Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua on July 7.

In addition, the court stopped any government official from taking action against Kenyatta University staff who refuse to surrender the land.

The 410-acre land adjacent to Kenyatta University has been a source of dispute which led to fallout between President Uhuru Kenyatta and the institution’s management last week. Prof Wainana was then forced to resign as the government disbanded the university council for refusing to surrender the title.

Kinyua had in his letter to the university directed that it surrenders 180 acres to KUTRH, 190 acres to settle Kamae squatters, 30 acres to WHO to set up a Sh600 million emergency hub and 10 acres to Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

But LSK, in its application filed through lawyer Ahmednassir Abdullahi, argued that Kinyua has no authority to initiate or carry out activities for compulsory acquisition of public land.

“The process was illegal from the beginning as pointed out by the university council chairman that the government cannot acquire the land without their consent. That is why the university was justified to resist the draconian and impunity takeover,” said Abdullahi.

LSK has listed Mr Kinyua, Kenyatta University Council, the Attorney General, the National Land Commission and the Cabinet Secretary for Lands and Physical Planning as respondents in the case.

Mr Abdullahi submitted that although Kinyua had indicated in his letter that it was a Cabinet decision to take over the land, the university council was not aware and was not involved in any talks to cede part of their land.

“The university is the registered owner of the land and has a right which cannot be alienated by illegal government decisions. There was no consultation with the university or public engagement to seek public views before the decision to take over the land,” said the lawyer.

According to the senior counsel, it was a lie for the government to claim that the land is idle when the university has a detailed master plan which shows how it intends to utilise the 410-acre land in expanding education services to thousands of Kenyans.

He accused the government of hiding under the clout of ‘public interest and public good’ to illegally take over the university land without following the required procedure for compulsory acquisition of public land.

Justice Angote directed the government to respond to the suit within seven days and scheduled the hearing on July 27.