Two petitioners have lost an application seeking orders from Environment and Land Court seeking to restrain the Murang’a County government and the National Land Commission from proceeding with the approval and consideration of an application for extension of a lease for the Del Monte fruit company.
Ephantus Githae and James Mwangi had sought conservatory orders saying they had reasonable fear that the process may be done in secrecy in contravention of the principles of access to information and public participation and pleaded with the court to issue the orders.
“The motion seeks one prayer – that the court issues conservatory orders directed at the respondents restraining them from proceeding with approval and or consideration of an application for extension of leases lodged by the proprietors in any manner dealing with the reversionary interests with respect to the properties.
“The petitioners aver that the suit lands are leased to Del Monte, a non-citizen company, for their exclusive utilisation for pineapple farming, canning and export,” the court documents read.
The petitioners accused the respondents of violating the provisions of Article 60 of the Constitution by not involving them and the residents of Murang’a, an accusation that the county government, through Lands Executive Sarah Masaki, denied, saying when the opportune time comes, they will involve residents.
“The land lease expires in 2022 and Del Monte has commenced the process of applying for the renewal of the said leases. No decision has been made as the process is still in infancy stage and at the opportune stage, residents will be involved,” she said in an affidavit.
According to Ms Masaki, the county will put into consideration views of residents on land use since it is the custodian of the local community interests in such matters.
While dismissing the application, Justice Grace Kemei said it failed to establish a prima facie case and that it was brought to the court prematurely.
“The suit land is still registered under the name of Del Monte and as of now, the land is private property and, therefore, there are no public assets in form of reversionary interests that the petitioners have alluded to in the application.
“The petitioners failed to demonstrate a prima facie case and it is the finding of this court that the application is brought to the court prematurely,” the judge said, adding that there were no constitutional rights being threatened to warrant the court to issue the conservatory orders sought.
The petitioners moved to court in 2018 seeking to have the county to place international and local bids, upon expiry of Del Monte’s lease, with the aim of attracting new investors who would first have to explain how Murang’a residents would benefit from the investment.