, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 25 – Two companies implicated in the alleged irregular acquisition of land in Lamu County appeared before the National Land Commission on Monday to present their case on Day 3 of hearings.
Lawyers representing Kaab Investments and Shella Ranch Limited furnished the commission with paperwork detailing purchase of the land and all agreements made in respect of the ownership.
It emerged that the land measuring 7,000 hectares was hastily purchased following pronouncement of the multi-billion shilling Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) programme but all of it was still lying idle two years down the line.
Kiragu Kimani, the lawyer representing Kaab Investments defended his clients when he was asked why the company did not have a business plan for the land they purchased, saying they had the intention of opening up a large scale ranch, which is yet to start since they were conducting a feasibility study.
It was however not as easy for the Shella Ranch lawyer when his turn to defend his client’s intentions over why they would purchase land and leave it lying bare for over two years.
“I am not aware Mr Commissioner” was Martin Gitonga’s response to a question by one of the commissioners who sought to find out whether the lawyer knew the proximity of Shella Ranch to the LAPSSET corridor.
And it didn’t end there, as an exchange ensued: “You don’t know whether it falls within the corridor or it is just a distance to it or far from it?” To which he responded: “I am not aware. The instructions when we received them had no mention of the corridor, it is not something we were considering, we just purchased the property.”
Gitonga was adamant he did not know the location of the highly publicised LAPSSET project whose construction is projected to commence next month.
The commission also learnt that the parcels of land had no visible boundaries and thus members of the nearby community had been arrested and prosecuted on several occasions for allegedly trespassing on private property.
An association calling itself the Hindi Ward Residents Association (HIWRA) who claims the land purchased by the companies was their ancestral land was also represented. George Wakahiru the lawyer representing the association told the commission the group had written to the NLC in January requesting it to protect their land as it was being encroached on by unknown people.
There was however confusion over the statements by the owners of the land and that by the inhabitants over whether the land in question was inhabited by people or not as the owners claim that the land was deserted.
Members of the HIRWA association are expected to appear before the commission on Tuesday to give their account of events.
Two other companies, Dynamic Trading Company and Savanna Fresh Fruits Export were also scheduled to appear before the commission but asked for more time which was granted. The sitting will however continue Tuesday.
The National Land Commission has its hands full as it hopes to resolve the countless land cases which date back to the pre-independence period.
The commission has however reiterated time and again its commitment to finding a solution to the land issue which is pitted to be the cause of many conflicts including the 2007/08 post election violence which cost over 1,000 Kenyans their lives with hundreds of thousands displaced.
Last week saw Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu re-open the Mombasa Lands Registry after it was closed for an audit during which over 38,000 missing files were recovered. The clean-up exercise will be done in all land registries around the country.