Court of Appeal urges parties to negotiate in Kirima land case

Court of Appeal maintains status quo in Gerishon Kirima land dispute. [File, Standard]
Court of Appeal yesterday declined to suspend orders requiring persons who were claiming the 1000 acre land owned by former politician Gerishon Kirima to leave.
A three-judge bench composed of Justices Mohammed Warsame, Jessie Lessit and Gatembu Kairu instead ordered for status quo, and urged parties to reach an out of court settlement.
“We don't want our orders to evict anybody. Lawyers, talk with your clients, sit together and resolve this matter. This is not a matter for the court and it's a matter that you can resolve and when there's consent people will be happy,” said Justice Warsame, who was heading the bench.
The family has opted to sell the property to those willing and had agreed to staggered payment plans owing to financial challenges currently facing Kenyans.
Those affected are persons who claimed to have been allocated the land by the Commissioner of Lands, Nairobi County Government, and others who claimed ownership through adverse possession.
At the same time, the order by the court affects unsuspecting third-party buyers who bought the land from the two groups.
Justice Samson Okong’o ordered at least 300 persons who claimed 80 acres after allegedly living and developing the part for more than 12 years to leave before December 31, 2023, failure to which, their property will be demolished.
In the case, the alleged squatters led by John Otieno claimed that from the time they occupied the property, Kirima never appeared or contested their occupancy. Otieno argued that none of the 300 persons he represented knew the owner of 472.5 acres of land for over 14 years.
Justice Okong’o found that Otieno was untruthful as he alleged that his group entered the property in the 1990s. However, the judge observed that he changed his story to 2000, then finally claimed that he built a house in 2011, three years before he sued Kirima’s family.
“In the absence of evidence as to when each of the applicants entered the suit property, and which portion of the property is occupied by each applicant, the applicant’s claim to a portion of LR no 6825/2 measuring 80 acres by adverse possession is not proved,” ruled the Judge.
Kamatuto Self Help Group, a second batch that claimed 160 acres alleged that they were allocated the portion by the Commissioner of Lands. The group led by Stephen Maina claimed that it had 1,310 members who allegedly had been mining building stones from the part of the land.
They too alleged that they had occupied the land for over 15 years without interruption. However, Kirima’s family argued that the portion had a slaughterhouse, and servant quarters and the remaining part had grazing fields.
According to the family, Kamatuto never sought permission from the politician before putting structures on the property. While terming the second group as invaders, the family asserted that Kirima had moved to court seeking to kick out the group. Kirima’s family argued that those claiming the land encroached on it after December 2010 when he died.
The family asserted that the number of squatters increased between 2012 and 2014. Justice Okong’o found that Kamamuto’s claim could not hold as they were still seeking permission from the Njiru District Officer to occupy the property.  He found they too could not allege adverse possession.
The third group - Naridai Muoroto was claiming 500 acres. The group claimed that they were landless persons who were moved by the State to the property between 1990 and 1994. Muoroto claimed it initially had 215 members but they increased to 2,000 over time. The group claimed that the county issued them allotment letters in 2009, paving the way for them to process titles.
Justice Okong’o gave the three groups until December 31 to leave. He however ordered the Kirima’s to transfer part of the land claimed by a fourth group, which included The Catholic Church after finding they bought the land from the late politician.