More than 500 households and owners of businesses on Diani beach, South Coast, are facing eviction after a three-judge bench of the High Court ruled that they were trespassers on Leisure Lodge’s 187 acres.
In a landmark decision, the court made a declaration that all people living on the land or purporting to own it be evicted and any structures constructed on them be demolished.
Justices Eric Ogola, Mugure Thande and Dora Chepkwony ruled that there was no doubt that the parcels belong to Leisure Lodge Ltd, which owns a beach and a golf resort.
On the piece of land stand several high-end homes, apartments and businesses worth millions of shillings belonging to former government officials, politicians and local leaders.
The judges also ruled that the parcels of land were not un-alienated government land and could not be allocated or allotted to any of the more than 700 respondents.
“The petitioner has shown through documents that it acquired the land through purchase,” said the three-judge bench. According to the judges, the purported revocation of the titles to the properties by the then district land registrar was an illegality as he did not possess powers to revoke a title.
“It was unlawful for the respondent to say the title is revoked, the alleged revocation is set aside. The land registration system must not be interfered with for private gain,” ruled the judges, adding that Leisure Lodge's right to land was violated.
The court noted that Leisure Lodge had voluntarily purchased land for settlement of squatters and that it was willing to give the land.
“The court accepts the willingness (of Leisure Lodge) to offer the land to the government for squatters,” said the judges.
The judges directed a lawyer who is in possession of documents relating to the land offered by Leisure Lodge to surrender them.
The court also ordered the commissioner of lands, chief land registrar and Kwale district land registrar to remove all restrictions, cautions and prohibitions placed over Leisure Lodge’s land.
Leisure Lodge had argued that over the years, successive holders of the then Office of Kwale District Commissioner, together with local politicians, had made claims that the firm had failed to resettle some squatters who had been occupying one of the parcels before it purchased it.
Through lawyer James Ochieng and Eunice Kibe, Leisure Lodge told the court that the land was private and had never been owned by the government.
Mr Ochieng further submitted that there were decrees that the parcels of land belonged to Leisure Lodge and that no application had be made to set them aside.
Mr Ochieng told the court that Leisure Lodge had given out 93 acres of land to settle squatters.
Through lawyer Njoroge Mwangi, the County Government of Kwale, which was among the respondents, argued there was admission that 60 per cent of the land was occupied by third parties.