Court awards Kibigori IDPs Sh55 million for land rights violation


Squatters displaced from Thesalia farm in Kericho County during the 1995 multiparty election violence in a meeting at Mtwala village in Muhoroni Kisumu County. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

The High Court has awarded internally displaced persons (IDPs) in ­Kibigori Plantations Settlement Scheme, Muhoroni, Sh55 million.

This is compensation for the government’s failure to allocate them land after giving them titles.

Justice Ether Asati awarded 46 persons, led by Dalmas Otieno Sh500,000, each as compensation for the violation of their right to land and Sh750,000 each as payment for land taken from them.

The judge also ordered the government to refund purchase money paid for the contested land to each of the IDPs.

The land is occupied by Nyangore Squatters and had been at the center of long-running skirmishes between Thessalia Holding members and the squatters.

In a judgment against the Ministry of Land, National Lands Commission, Ministry of Interior, the judge observed that despite Thessalia members having titles to the land, the government failed to secure their properties from illegal occupation.

The court was of the view that the government sold air to the IDPs.

“I find that by failing to settle the plaintiffs who had been identified as internally displaced persons and therefore landless people, even after issuing them with letters of offer, and accepting payments for the same as demanded, the first defendant (lands ministry) breached the plaintiff’s right under Article 43 of the Constitution,” ruled Justice Asati.

Justice Asati said that in fact, there was nothing for them on the ground to occupy.  She said that there was evidence to show that the IDPs hung onto hope for close to a decade, waiting for the date that they would be shown their acres of properties for the titles they held.

“It is the evidence of the plaintiffs that the land was occupied by the Nyangore squatters who had been occupation for more than 40 years and other powerful individuals who resist attempts to give the land to the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs have never seen the parcels of land on the ground,” she observed.

Thessalia IDPs lawyer Kenneth Amondi told the court that his clients were displaced in the run-up to the multi-party elections in 1992.

The court heard that a village in Muhoroni in then Kericho District was badly affected by inter-ethnic violence which displaced over 1,000 villagers. These were residents of Thessalia, known to the local community as a Centre of Catholic missionary activities.

Thessalia residents are huddled together on a small piece of the earth somewhere near Koru where they have access to no land to till for their livelihood.

Amondi said that on January 9, 2013, his clients received letters from the Director of Land Adjudication and Settlement in Nairobi informing them they were finally being settled at Kibigori Plantations Settlement Scheme in Muhoroni District.

The new settlers were required to report to the project manager Kibigori Plantations so that they could be shown the plot boundaries and be issued with a letter confirming this before final documentation. On further payment of Sh10,407.85, they would purchase the plots outright and be issued with title deeds.

However, he said, the government went silent.

Lawyer Amondi stated that the market value of the properties was Sh184 million.

In its response, the government claimed that the case was similar to another one filed in 2021.

While urging the court to dismiss the case, they claimed that Otieno was also a part of the case filed on behalf of persons in Swahili Village, Bondeni and Shauri Moyo in Muhoroni.

The government also denied that the contested land was worth Sh 184 million.