Nandi residents forcefully enter 350-acre tea estate after court ruling

A section of the residents invaded a tea estate in Nandi hills, demanding the government to restore the disputed land to the community. [Edward Kosut, Standard]

Residents of Kimasas village in Nandi County want the government to execute a Lands court decision over the disputed Kimasas tea estate.

They said that despite the court ruling that was delivered by the Environment and Lands Court in Nairobi on April 20, no appropriate action has been taken.

On Thursday, Nandi Hills MP Bernard Kitur led the residents in protests where the beneficiaries of the decision forced entry into a section of the tea estate.

A section of the irate residents who braved the chilly morning invaded the tea estate and started picking up the tea leaves.

During the protests, they called on the National Land Commission (NLC) and the security team to expedite the handing over of 350 acres of land to the original owners.

“The Court ruled that Kimasas tea estate belongs to the members registered under Kimasas cooperative society. It is not the first time, similar decisions were made in 2019. For how long will it take for the court ruling to be effected?” he posed.

Kitur said the landmark judgement handed the estate to the families who had suffered as a result of historical injustices.

“NLC in 2018 ruled in favour of 140 families that the land was illegally acquired over 40 years ago, and the court validated three times in a row. President William Ruto's administration respects the rule of law, and we demand that the affected families be given back their land,” he said.

The 350 acres according to the National Land Commission documentation were registered under plot number LR 9285 and has been in dispute for over 40 years after the white settlers handed the land to locals.

According to Daniel Biwott, who claimed that his father worked as a labourer in the tea estate, the British settlers left the land to the labourers, and they have allotment documents showing that they bought the land.

“Initially, the land was 550 acres but the tea company under the management of the white settler locally known as Bwana Achab resettled our parents on 200 acres of land, and they planted tea on the rest of the land,” he narrated.

Shortly after the country attained its independence, Bwana Achab left the plantation to his younger brother, Peter Scott, to run the farming projects.

With the British nationals returning to their country between 1960 and 1975, Mr Scott disposed of the land.

Biwott said that he mobilized the residents, the majority of them were labourers, and jointly paid the development value amounting to Sh 247, 000.

“People contributed the money and Mr Scott told the families to open a cooperative society. He facilitated the formation and registration of the Kimasas Cooperative Society for effective transfer of the land to the locals,” stated Mr Biwott.

However, Mr Scott established a tea plantation as indicated in the agreement made with the community from 1980 to 1985 before he handed it over to the community.

“The Court listen to our case and ruled in our favour. There is no appeal filed after the judgement three months ago, and there is no reason as to why the order has not been affected," said Mr Biwott.

Philip Agui, one of the farmer's cooperative society officials, said that they are set to engage with the NLC for further guidance on the land transaction process.

"We don't want to take the law by our hands. But we call for justice to the affected group and allow the government to use available legal avenues to ensure that the land is restored to the original owners in the community," he said.