Hundreds of squatters in Nairobi’s Ruai area rendered homeless in a government sanctioned eviction were granted a reprieve on Tuesday after the move was annulled and declared illegal.
A high court judge issued an injunction against the evictions saying the squatters repossess the 4,000 acre piece of land they were occupying before the November 18 evictions in which a resident was crushed to death as bulldozers brought down structures in the area.
The squatters were in court to seek help in stopping alleged land grabbers from taking over the property.
During the proceedings it emerged the eviction had been carried out without a court order, a fact that seemed to provoke the anger of the presiding judge, lady justice Pauline Nyamweya who handed the squatters a life line by stopping “any further evictions until the matter is determined”.
“The applicants shall not be evicted or their occupation of the property be interfered with... in light of the fact that the eviction was carried out without a court order, the respondents clearly brought it (order) against themselves,” the judge said.
The judge wondered why the developers did not approach the court to seek eviction orders if they felt the squatters were occupying their property.
A lawyer representing the squatters told the court certain powerful individuals were attempting to possess the land by kicking out the squatters extra-judicially.
Both parties have laid claim to the land with the squatters swearing affidavits to the effect that the City Council “legally” allocated them the plot in 2001 while the developers have annexed title deeds dating back to 1996 also sanctioned by City Hall.
The case has a three year history at the Milimani law courts in Nairobi and has been previously shifted between two trial chambers.
On Tuesday, justice Nyamweya after issuing the injunction sent the litigants back for a full hearing before the trial court where the case has been pending. Parties were ordered to prepare in the next 21 days for the hearing.
“We have been unable to get a hearing date since September, meanwhile the defendants moved on the property, carried out demolitions and are in the process of erecting a perimeter wall as we speak,” lawyer Julius Juma told the court.
He said the defendants were forcefully claiming ownership over a property which is the subject of a pending court determination and had used 400 uniformed police officers to execute the “illegality.”
“My clients were evicted without a court order,” the lawyer submitted.
A lawyer appearing for the developers said he was apprehensive the order may lead “fresh invasion on the land by the over 1600 people who formerly occupied it”.
However, the judge allayed the fears saying that the squatters must be fully aware that if the scales of justice tilted against them and they lose the case, then they will have to forfeit the property they will have erected on the plot.