The Catholic Church has agreed to give 600 acres of land to a group of Nyeri villagers who had sued it for forcibly taking their land during the Mau Mau war.
The landmark decision could help other families uprooted from their homes during the fight for independence get their property back.
Most of the plaintiffs were descendants of the Mau Mau fighters, who were taken to concentration camps as their land was taken by missionaries and white settlers.
The church’s Nyeri Archdiocese has already recorded a consent with the complainants, the 300-member Mathari Village Self-Help Group.
The consent was recorded at the Environment and Land Court in Nyeri by Justice Lucy Waithaka and signed by the squatters’ lawyer, Mr Charles Karweru, and and the church’s lawyer, Mr John Mugambi.
Also present was the church’s legal adviser, Fr David Mutahi, and the group’s chairman, Mr Tarcisio Nyaga, treasurer Paul Ndiang’ui and secretary Joseph Macharia.
Justice Waithaka said the consent will be adopted as a court order.
The document, which lays down the procedures for sub-dividing the expansive land occupied by coffee, schools and hospitals, brings to an end a long-standing dispute.
“The defendant (Church), being the registered owner of LR No 1105/5 11o6/6 11943/2 and 9462/2, does hereby agree to excise 600 acres from the said land parcels to be transferred to the entitled plaintiffs within six months,” reads the consent.
The parties agreed that the sub-division will be done according to the survey done by one Gichoho Ngugi.
Public and church amenities built by the church will be catered for during the sub-division.
The squatters will cater for their individual title deeds, registration fee and stamp duty.
The church will facilitate the registration and then forward all the registered titles to the squatters’ advocate.
“Each party is to bear its own costs of the suit. The matter will be mentioned for further orders and directions on December 20, 2018,” directed Justice Waithaka.
In the suit, the squatters said they live in Mathari and Mwenji villages, and have been occupying the disputed land, and that they were labourers in the church’s expansive coffee farms.
The court heard that the plaintiffs had the right to own the land under adverse possession.
They claimed that on April 23, 1976, the diocese wrote a letter indicating it would cede the land at a cost of Sh650 per share to the locals.