Legislators tell off Moes Kuria over Del Monte land saga

Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria during launch of voluntary carbon market second auction in Kenya. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Parliament wants all transactions on 7,300 acres of the controversial Del Monte land put on hold.

The National Assembly Committee on Lands on Tuesday accused Trade and Industry Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria of meddling with the matter for appointing a team to probe the controversy.

This emerged when the National Lands Commission (NLC) appeared before the committee yesterday to shed light on the status of the land ceded by the multi-national fruit processor and which the House had recommended be allocated to locals for settlement.

In 2021, MPs approved a report that resolved that the land that cuts across Kiambu and Murang’a counties be allocated to the Kandara Residents Association and the Murang’s and Kiambu counties in a ratio of 70:30.

But NLC revealed that the parcel of land was yet to be transferred to locals citing delays by the Ministry of Lands, a court case and a non-existence of a formal request by the residents and county governments for the process to be kick started.

The commission chairman Gershom Otachi said CS Kuria had on June 23 summoned NLC, the Ministry of Lands, Members of the Executive from Murang’a county as well as MCAs.

But the committee wondered what interest the CS had in the controversy.

“Did you tell the Trade CS that this committee is investigating the matter? We wonder what interest he has because this does not fall in his docket,” said Naivasha MP Jayne Kihara.

The committee chairman Joash Nyamoko (North Mugirango) sought to know why Kuria was usurping the powers of the Lands ministry and why, despite the committee investigating the matter, he was pursuing the same.

“The subject matter of the letter inviting you to the meeting with Kuria was on the ownership of Del Monte land. Didn’t you find it suspect? Why did you also elect to send a junior officer and not attend in person? Is it because you knew it wouldn’t look well on your part?” said Nyamoko.

Otachi explained that the meeting had been called by Kuria with aim of forming a technical committee where each stakeholder was to nominate two members, while Del Monte was to pick three to form the panel. The Trade docket, he said, would serve as the secretariat.

NLC Chief Executive Officer Kabale Tache explained that prior to Parliament’s consideration of the land issue, they had received a request for the extension of leases submitted by Delmonte in Murang’a and Kiambu counties.

“For NLC to allocate the Land in question, a formal request by Kandara Residents Association or any other beneficiaries should be received from the respective CEC member in charge of Lands of Murang’a and Kiambu counties. The request should comprise an approved physical Development plan, an authenticated survey and the beneficiaries,” she said.

Nyamoko told the commission that all transactions on the land be halted. “Any activities touching on Delmonte land should be put on hold so we can make arrangements on how to proceed with the matter,” he said.