Goons destroy property as Keroka town boundary row escalates

Property worth thousands of shillings was destroyed at Keroka market in Kisii on Wednesday following a standoff over a boundary dispute between Nyamira and Kisii counties.

Traders were shocked to find their stalls and goods destroyed.

The Nyamira and Kisii counties have disagreed over ownership of Keroka town strategically located on the highway.

Nyamira County Commissioner, Erastus Mbui who addressed the media said the boundary issue was before the courts.

"The matter is before the Courts, there are no orders that have been issued on the status quo,” he said.

Mbui noted that the matter was dispensed by the High Court in Nyamira and an appeal was lodged at the Kisumu Court of Appeal.

“The destruction of property is uncalled for, traders should not be subjected to such losses. They can operate from any side of the market, we don’t have a law that requires that a business person or trader to operate from a specific part of the country," he said.

The county commissioner warned that the law would deal with all criminals trying to sabotage the process.

On Tuesday,  Kisii county government through their Advocate Ochieng Oginga moved to the Court of Appeal in Kisumu and obtained orders on status quo.

“Upon engaging the parties’ advocates, an order of status quo shall be issued pending the hearing and determination of the Appeal,” read the court order in part.

The order was issued by Court of Appeal Judges Hannah Okwengu, Ali-Aroni, and Joel Ngugi.

On April 10, 2024, Advocate Justus Maeche who is representing the petitioner in the Keroka boundary dispute wrote to the Deputy Registrar Kisumu Court of Appeal saying the differing interpretation of the High Court orders had led to a standoff between the counties.

“Such confusion and ambiguity could potentially escalate into a broader conflict if left unaddressed. The court directed that the status quo be maintained, which, in our understanding, implies that the Judgment of the Environment and Land Court dated February 15, 2024, remains in force until the appeal is determined,” said Maeche.

The advocate said that Rule 36 of the Court of Appeal Rules, which governs the preparation of orders and proper procedures must be followed to ensure compliance with the rules of the court.

“Regrettably, in the present case, no draft order was shared with us for approval as required by Rule 36. This oversight raises questions about the authenticity and validity of the order circulating in the public domain,” he said.

Nyamira Lands and Environment Court Judge Kamau Mugo's ruled that the boundaries remain as per the report of the team of experts.

The report seen by The Standard indicates that the "beacons are also for the knowledge of the general public and for the administrators and service providers to identify their areas of jurisdiction."

The report, signed by Caro Manyange, a manager at the Independent and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), and Joseph Nanzala, Assistant Director of Surveys, states that counties were created out of the then districts. Consequently, they have the same respective boundaries.

"The ascertainment of the boundary was based on existing records kept by the Office of the Director of Surveys. Therefore, the positions thus ascertained are factual and reproducible,” read the report in part.

Justice Mugo ruled: "I am cautioning against any person who may interfere with it. Land and boundary issues are emotive and I don’t want to see the prevailing peace disrupted over a non-existent issue."

On the issue of revenue collection, the Judge referred the matter to an intergovernmental agreement that the two counties signed in 2014. “If you fail to agree in the governmental meeting, then the aggrieved party can move to court for further directions," he said.

He said that forcing the residents of Keroka town to pay double taxes was a gross violation of the affected traders’ property rights under Article 40(3) of the Constitution.

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