10 August 2012

Kenya: Moi Ordered to Surrender Grabbed Land

Retired President Moi and Moi High School Kabarak have six months to vacate the 100 acre parcel of land in Rongai constituency grabbed from the Bell family in the 1980s. The Court of Appeal judges Martha Koome and Hannah Okwengu ordered Moi and the school associated with him to vacate as they were in illegal possession of the land which belongs for Malcolm Bell and his family.

If the school and Moi fail to vacate the land within the six months, they will be forcefully evicted without any further recourse to the courts. The ruling brings to an end a nine year old court battle by Malcolm Bell to recover the land from Moi and the school and in effect overturns the decision by High Court judge Muga Apondi who had found the school and Moi, had legal possession of the land.

Malcolm had filed the case in 2003, soon after Moi's exit from power. In the suit, Malcolm claimed that his father Walter Ginger Bell was forced to sign over the 100 acres to the school which is associated with the former President . Malcolm said his father was intimidated by security officers who threatened him with losing his whole 1,028 acre farm if he did not sign over the 100 acres.

He alleged that his father was coerced into giving the school the land and in return, was promised by Moi that he would get the government's help to build a borehole, a cattle dip and channel electricity to his farm. Moi never kept this promise, the Court of appeal said. Bell said that family could do nothing to recover the land as Moi enjoyed immunity by virtue of being President. The grabbed land was also under 24-hour GSU guard. He said the family was only able to sue Moi for the injustices they had suffered when he retired as President.

Bell said that soon after he retired in 2003, Moi offered to buy the land from the family at market value. However, the negotiations fell through which compelled him to go sue for the recovery of the land. "I received threats. I was told that if I continued with my claim, my family's entire land would be repossessed and I would be thrown out of the country since I was a 'mzungu'," Bell testified in court.

The Bell family owns 1,100 acres which is adjacent to the 1,180 acres that Moi owns and where the Kabarak education complex comprising Moi primary Kabarak, Moi High School Kabarak, Kabarak university are situated. There is also a guest house, a dispensary and Moi's own home. Developments on the 100 acres grabbed from the Bell family include student hostels and staff quarters and a wheat plantation.

Moi denied he owned the school. The Moi Kabarak High School principal Dr Henry Kiplagat told the court the school came to own the land through adverse possession-it had occupied the land for more than 12 years.

He then said that the land had been 'gifted' by Walter Bell to then President Moi to use it as farmland. It was on the basis of these arguments that Justice Apondi dismissed the Bell case in 2005. Bell appealed against the decision in 2007.Yesterday, Justice Koome and Justice Okwengu said it was erroneous for Moi to enjoin the Moi High School Kabarak board of governors in the suit since as a private school, the institution could not have such a board.

They said that even though Moi had denied the owned the school, evidence adduced before court showed that they were inseparable.The judges read mischief and said it was 'highly suspicious' that the school principal had adamantly refused to disclose who the owners of the school were. They said Moi High School was registered in 1979 as a harambee school and has under unclear circumstances, since become a private institution.

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