Kenya: SGR Compensation Suit for Kwale Land to Proceed

Standard Gauge Railway train (file photo).

The Sh2 billion Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) compensation suit pitting Kwale residents and four private companies is set to proceed to its logical conclusion.

This is after the Environment and Land Court in Mombasa declined to strike out the case, noting that the genuine owner of the property in dispute must be determined.

Justice Charles Yano has said that since both parties have laid claim to the property, and are accusing each other of holding fraudulently procured titles, the court must hear the case to unlock the stalemate.

"For now, it is the plaintiffs' words against the defendants' words. It is only after trial that the truth will come out," said the judge.

"This can only be possible by sustaining the plaintiffs' suit and subjecting it to full trial. I find that this is not a case fit for striking out," added the judge.

In the case, Kahia Transporters Ltd and Trade Lead Ltd has sued the National Land Commission (NLC) over its plan to compensate Chunky Ltd , Curly Wurly Ltd, and some Kwale residents, whose lands were compulsorily acquired for the project.

The protracted court battle, dating back to 2016, has delayed the disbursement of Sh2 billion compensation money to the affected individuals and companies.

NLC's previous attempt to have the order suspending payment lifted has been fruitless, as the court has maintained that genuine owners of the acquired land parcels must first be determined

The order halting compensation was issued three years ago, after Kahia and Trade Lead Ltd filed a court case, contesting the boundaries of 12 plots situated along the SGR corridors.

The application to strike out the entire suit was last year filed by Mr Julius Kea Mbawa, who claims to be the administrator of an estate of one of the affected properties.

Mr Mbawa claimed that Kahia and Trade Lead Ltd want to rely on titles regarding property purportedly situated in Mombasa, to lay claim over Chunky Ltd and Curly Wurly Ltd property.

"The applicant states that the said plaintiff's tittles are illegal, unlawful, and non-existent," he said.

Kahia and Trade Lead Ltd allege that the titles in possession of the other two companies are forgeries, while theirs are genuine, insisting that they are the land parcels' registered owners.

"This case ought not to be struck out and dismissed. This being a case where there exist competing titles on the same properties, the court must get the opportunity to hear all the parties concerned in a trial, evaluate all the documents produced by both parties before determining who holds the correct and genuine title," said Kahia and Trade Lead Ltd, in court papers.

However, the judge has advised the advocates in this dispute to abandon many disruptive applications to enable its expeditious conclusion.

Chunky Limited has also insisted that it is the beneficial owner, as it was issued with the original title deed ,after purchasing the plot in 2012. It argues that it has the original title that was issued to the original owner of the plot in 1993.

But documents filed by Mr Mbawa shows that the plot being referred to by Kahia Transporters Ltd is in Mombasa and not in Kwale, and that deed plans allegedly used to procure titles for the company had been denounced by a licensed surveyor who had prepared them.

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