Judge orders eviction of 35 families from disputed land

Justice Robert Wananda ruled that affected families had no claim to the disputed property. [iStockphoto]

The High Court in Eldoret has ordered eviction of families that had encroached on a 1,300-acre piece of land belonging a late prominent farmer.

Hundreds of families had invaded the farm of the late prominent farmer Christopher Kipchirchir Sum in Karnanin, Moiben, Uasin Gishu county. 

Justice Robert Wananda ruled that the affected families and the institutions had no valid claim to the disputed property, putting to rest a long-protracted land dispute.

“The settlers are trespassers on the suit land, having failed to demonstrate or prove to this court that they settled on the said parcel of agricultural land after securing consent,” Justice Wananda ruled.

The Judge consequently ordered that the affected families, including a church and a day and boarding primary school, vacate or face eviction from the disputed property, estimated to be worth Sh1.5 billion.

The late Sum, who died 39 years ago, had left his widow, Veronicah Sum, as the sole administrator of his vast estate.

Justice Wananda ruled that those occupying the property should move out to pave way for the deceased's family to enjoy full use of the land.

The advocate representing late Sum’s family, Momanyi Gichana, said that the settlers could not lay claim to the disputed land when they had no documents to prove ownership.

Gichana told court that the ‘invaders’ had caused the family great loss by cutting down trees, destroying the fence, illegally grazing livestock and hampering cultivation of crops.

In their defence, the settlers claimed to have acquired the property through the Catholic Diocese of Eldoret.

They alleged that they were allocated the land by the Diocese after purchasing it from the deceased’s widow through a sale agreement 31 years ago.

Christopher Sila, 85, the spokesperson of the settlers, claimed that they were homeless and they were moved by the church to the property more than 30 years ago under a programme aimed at helping the landless people find a place to call home.

“Initially, we were about 35 landless families, but the number has since increased to more than 100 over time. We have no other place to go to with our school-going children and livestock in the event the eviction order is effected as directed by the court," Sila told the Press after the ruling.

Another settler, Angela Oloo, claimed that they had been living on the suit property peacefully until trouble started seven years ago when one of the deceased's children told them not to plough the land, terming them strangers.

“We did not utilize the land last year after we were warned against planting maize and other crops, saying we are strangers on their property,” said Oloo.