Family of former Prison Reforms hero' cries in battle over 800-acre land

When President Daniel Arap Moi shook hands with the late former Commissioner of Prisons Reuben Nzioka Mutua during the state visit of the late Pope John Paul II. [File, Standard]

As Kenya celebrates its 60th year of self-rule, the family of the forgotten hero of Prison reforms, the late former Commissioner of Prisons Reuben Nzioka Mutua is seeking to secure 800 acres of land.

The family said Mutua had not acquired the title deed of the land in Emali, Makueni County by the time he died in a road accident in 1986.

The land according to the family has now been occupied by squatters.

"My mother took over as administrator, but she too did not complete the title processing until her death in 2002. Both are buried on the land with my sister, brother, and his wife," says the former police boss's son Peter Mutua.

Mutua, a doctor said before their mother died, his elder brother was responsible for the farm, and he leased it to residents of Kongo village (across the River Muooni) without proper agreements.

The lease continued until they issued an eviction notice to the residents after their mother passed on.

"When the notice was issued, the "tenants" took us to court claiming that we were not the owners of the property, a petition that was dismissed by Justice Waki in 2003 based on a complete lack of proof," he says.

Mutua told The Standard in an interview, "The squatters continued this relationship with my brother until 2007 when he demolished the family home (with the help of the people from Kongo) to spite the family and they moved, first to Sultan Hamud, and then later to Nakuru where he died in 2010,"

In his absence, the residents continued to graze their cattle and farm sections of the land.

"When I returned from the US in 2011, I took over the property and began to visit it frequently, getting rid of the people who had attempted to put up structures on the property," Dr. Mutua says.

But he encountered trouble when he tried to get the title deed and the process has stalled at the Ministry of Lands.

"By God's grace in 2017 we found someone to help us get the title, a process that we completed in 2019," he says.

In the biography, Commitment, Diligence and Faithfulness, Mutua, Gen Mulinge, and Brig Mahmoud Mohammed helped quash the attempted coup of 1982 and the late former President Daniel Arap Moi gave the prison boss an opportunity to buy the vast land, as a reward for his heroic act.

One of the most reformist leaders of post-independence Kenya, the second African Commissioner of Prisons was so principled that he was known to defy then-revered Constitutional Affairs Minister Charles Njonjo.

But Mutua said after the death of his brother, he has been constantly on the ground.

"In September 2018, I noticed a structure that had been put up on the land which I demolished. I also engaged the DCI in Nzaui to arrest the people we found farming on the land where we confiscated a plough," he said.

The doctor said some national government officials and top county leaders frustrated the family's efforts to get justice and that those who were helpful were transferred.

Matters came to a head in December 2019 and April 2020 when the people became violent as when the family attempted to put beacons on the land.

He said this went on even as local police chiefs looked on, contrary to their duty to protect lives and property.

"Our complaints to IPOA, National Land Commission, EACC, Commission on Administrative Justice, and the CS Interior all went unheard with them advising that we go to court to seek orders that they can act on," he said.

This is the route they took in May 2020 and a ruling is expected to be delivered on June 6.