Judge opts out of case seeking to reverse Uhuru land order

Friday March 17 2017

Activist Okiya Omtatah, who has sued the State

Activist Okiya Omtatah, who has sued the State over its decision to award a tract of land in Naivasha to the Isahakia Community. PHOTO | LABAN WALLOGA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By JOSEPH OPENDA
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A Land and Environment court judge has withdrawn from a case in which activist Okiya Omutatah seeks to revoke President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive giving a parcel to Isahakia community.

Justice Sila Munyao on Thursday cited attack against his character and competence as the reason for his withdrawal from the case.

“I am not comfortable handling the case after an attack on my character and competence as a judge has been made against me by one of the parties,” ruled justice Munyao.

The 1500 acres of land in Naivasha has been at the centre of a court row pitting Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and Isahakia community who are both laying claim on it.

Justice Munyao urged the government to put legislative measures in place that will protect judges from such attacks that seem to jeopardize their integrity.

The case took a new twist when Mr Omutatah filed an application in court on February 20 seeking to reverse a directive by President Uhuru Kenyatta awarding the land to the community.

The activist in his petition accused the president of irregularly allotting the public land to Isahakia Community whom he termed as fraudsters acting as proxies of powerful people in the government.

He claimed that, KALRO, a government agricultural research institute, is set to lose property worth Sh20 billion if the decision is not quashed.

In the dispute, the Isahakia community living in Naivasha has maintained that they are the legal owners of the1500 acre piece of land in which KALRO is also laying claim on.

A witness in his testimony before the lands court told the court that the community owned and has lived in the parcel of land since 1904.

The court heard that the government through the then minister of lands Amos Kimunya resolved the land dispute and issued them with allotment letter in 2010 in which each family was to pay 6800 for 330 acres of land.

The research institute however maintained that the community did not have the relevant documents including title deeds to prove ownership of the parcel.

Mr Omutatah had further applied to have a three judge bench hear the case.

The judge was set to make a ruling on whether to consolidate the three applications

The case which was placed before Justice Dalmas Ohungo will be heard on April 6.