Kenya: Nyahururu Court to Rule on 48-Year Land Ownership Dispute

12 November 2019

The Environment and Land court in Nyahururu is Tuesday expected to deliver a ruling on a 48-year land dispute involving the family of former police commissioner Ben Gethi and two other families.

The families of Ndurere Muhunyu and Benjamin Ithinyai on one side and that of Mr Gethi, who served as the second post-independence police commissioner from 1978 to 1982 after Mr Bernard Hinga, have been involved in a feud over the 303-acre piece of land located in Murichu village in Ndaragwa Constituency, Nyandarua County.

COLONIAL FARMER

All the three families have been claiming that the vast land was left to their fathers by Mr Harry Wallis, a colonial farmer.

The case was filed early this year by Mr David Kimengere, Mr David Gitonga, Mr Ngotho Ndurere and Mr Muthami Ndurere on behalf of the late Mr Muhunyu and the late Mr Ithinyai against Ms Angela Wairimu (Mr Gethi's widow) and her company, Murua Limited.

The applicants have been accusing the Gethi family of fraudulently acquiring the ownership documents of the piece of land.

But the respondents have been maintaining that they have genuine papers for the land.

LAND DOCUMENTS

Documents that were filed at the Nyahururu Land Court indicate that the land - No: LR 7381 (LR 6406) Laikipia - was transferred to the plaintiffs' parents vide a conveyance dated October 23, 1964.

But the land is currently registered under Murua Limited, a company whose directors are Ms Wairimu and her son, Mr Peter Nderitu Gethi.

Through lawyer Wachira Wamahiu, the plaintiffs indicated that the said conveyance of the land was entered in the register of lands by the chief lands registrar.

The plaintiffs claim that the land was later transferred to the Gethi family in 1971 in unclear circumstances.

EJECTED

While testifying in court on April 10, 2019, Mr Ngotho Ndurere said that after taking over as the police commissioner, the late Gethi used his powers to eject them from the land in 1971 without a court order and also used the office of the Commissioner of Lands for irregular registration of the land under his name.

He said that the Commissioner of Lands denied them access to information on records relating to the land from 1971 until 2014 when they were given the search copy.

"We moved into the land in August 2018 following a directive from the Chief Lands Registrar, Mr Charles Ng'etich, that we legally own the land No 7381 (IR 6406) Laikipia." Mr Ngotho told the court on April 10, 2019.

DEFENCE

But in defence, Mr Peter Nderitu Gethi, a son to the late police commissioner and a director of Murua Limited, told the court that they legally own the piece of land and faulted the two families for reportedly invading it and erecting semi-permanent structures.

Mr Nderitu had also attached a copy of a letter dated August 15, 2018, from the Chief Land Registrar Charles Ngetich addressed to Kamau Kuria & Company Advocates (for the squatters) indicating that Murua Limited has a genuine title deed for the land. The title deed, according to the Land Registrar, was registered on July 14, 2010.

Last year, police in Nyandarua North directed the three families involved in the dispute not to cultivate the land until the dispute is resolved.

The case had initially been taken to the National Land Commission and the Land ministry, but they both failed to resolve it.

Attempts by the Nyandarua County Land Management Board to resolve the dispute failed, and, in a report dated October 22, 2015, it referred the matter to court.

Now all eyes lies on Justice Mary Oundo as all the parties await her ruling.

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