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After 36 years, court finds Mukuru kwa Njenga land belongs to Orbit

The company faced resistance from people claiming to be squatters on the parcel, and the dispute ended up in court where it dragged on for decades.

What the bank failed to disclose to the purchaser was that there were squatters on the property.

Justice Mary Kasango on March 11, 2020, said it seemed that the government-owned bank never intended to give Orbit its vacant possession.

It appeared, according to the judge, that NBK's intention was to abandon Orbit with the burden of removing the squatters.

The battle, which has been in court for more than 36 years, has only been an expensive affair for the taxpayers due to the government's blunders.

Sore thumb

It remains a sore thumb that refuses to go for Orbit despite several verdicts that the firm is the legit owner of the property in dispute.

A caveat placed on the property in 1989 by the registrar of titles had initially cost taxpayers Sh6 billion in a case filed by the company against the government.

Since then, it has been case after case, judgment after judgment all in favour of Orbit, with the latest being heard by Justice Edward Wabwoto and filed this year by Joram Kagimbi, Nelius Kariuki, Hotensiah Wanjiru, Peter Kimani, Zipporah Ndungu and Thomas Waruru.

Justice Wabwoto observed that in 2005, the High Court threw out a case filed by Amina Mohamed, James Kariuki Murage, Joseph Thiga Njoroge, Kassim Mohamed, Rachel Njoki Wainaina, Adan Alio, Joseph Manyasi, and Stephen Nzuki, seeking to block the eviction.

The Environment and Lands Court (ELC) Judge observed in his judgment dated August 15, 2023, the court had affirmed that the property belonged to Orbit and ordered that all the squatters should be evicted. Further, Justice Wabwoto observed that in yet another case, where Orbit had sued Attorney General in 2004, the court confirmed Orbit's ownership.

Yet another case

At the same time, Justice Wabwoto said in yet another case filed by Zipporah Muthoni Ndungu, Gerald Gathaiya Ndungu, Peter Nyoro Kiarie, Belinda Teresiah Mumbi, David Mong'are and Ann Wesonga, the squatters were found to be illegal occupants.

A child sits next to demolished houses in Mukuru Kwa Njenga slums,Nairobi when police engaged area residents in running battles on December 27, 2021. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

He also declined to find that the residents owned the property through adverse possession. According to the judge, there was no evidence that they had lived in the property since 1958.

Supporting affidavit

"Nevertheless, the petitioners herein did not attach to the supporting affidavit any evidence or at all, to show that same are in occupation of the suit property.

"In this regard, the issue of occupation of the suit property by the petitioners was therefore left for the court to speculate upon same with a view to finding and holding in favour of the petitioners," he said.

The residents were also opposed to the government's plan to construct Catherine Ndereba Road through the slum. They claimed that they were not consulted and were not involved in the design process.

However, Kenya Urban Roads Authority (KURA) disputed the claim arguing that when it was carrying out a feasibility and impact assessment of the intended road, a number of residents were involved.

According to the agency, the intended road was critical as it would open up the slum.

Justice Mboya found that the road should be built on public land and not on the property.

Orbit also opposed the case. The firm's representative Sachen Chandaria told the court that Orbit had bought the property from bank through public auction.

Chandaria asserted that Orbit has a right to develop the property adding that the firm sued Attorney General ( in 2004 over a caveat, which had been placed on the same property.

According to Chandaria, the court went ahead in 2012 and ordered the AG to pay Sh6 billion for loss of income. He said that although the firm won, the government has never obeyed the court orders.