More than 500 families in Likoni have breathed a sigh of relief after the High Court temporarily halted further demolition of their houses, which were determined to be blocking navigational lights of vessels.
Justice Charles Yano, of the Environment and Land Court, Thursday issued temporary orders restraining the National Land Commission (NLC) and the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) from further demolishing houses at Senti Kumi Village, pending hearing and determination of the suit.
NLC chairman Muhammad Swazuri had given the squatters, who had built their homes on government land notice on January 18 to vacate since they were blocking navigational aids at the port.
When the two-week notice expired, Dr Swazuri oversaw the demolition that left hundreds of families homeless.
The NLC and KMA argue that the residents have encroached on navigational aids and beacons thus interfering with smooth navigation of vessels docking at the port.
“The law of navigation requires that the lights have to be given enough space and that the corridor be clear of structures. Ship captains gaining entry to the port have had a hard time navigating due to reflection from the roofs, which puts the vessels at risk,” Dr Swazuri said during the demolition.
The chairman defended the commission’s action arguing that the International Maritime Organisation had issued a warning to the Government of Kenya a decade ago that Mombasa port risked being shut down due to poor visibility of the beacons that aid navigation into Kilindini Habour.
Under a certificate of urgency, the affected villagers, through lawyer Said Mgupu, told the court that the forceful eviction carried out by the government agencies was an illegality since they were not served with notice to vacate.
“Petitioners aver that they have never received formal notice from KMA or NLC at all except through media reports,” he said.
The squatters claim that they were not involved in the survey tours conducted by NLC officials and were denied an opportunity to ascertain whether their structures encroached on navigational aids.
The squatters, who sued under the auspices of Senti Kumi Community Self Help Group, further submitted that the directive was not supported by a gazette notice.
KMA and NLC have objected to the petitioners’ case, arguing that they have no capacity to sue. The matter comes up for hearing on February 18.