More than 500 families are now facing eviction from land said to belong to former assistant minister Basil Criticos.
This comes after Mr Criticos renewed his plans to repossess the 1,000 hectares of land in Taita Taveta County which he claims was illegally allocated to the residents.
The former Taveta MP on Wednesday asked a Mombasa court to give him time to get a land surveyor to prove encroachment, ownership and the damages he has suffered as a result of the invasion.
In his court documents, the former legislator wants the title deed issued to the locals by the county director of settlements cancelled and the ownership of the property reverted to him.
Mr Criticos, who has filed the case at the Environment and Land Court in Mombasa, claims that the locals were erroneously issued with the documents, which ought to be cancelled.
“I have at all times been the registered owner of the land and has been peacefully enjoying possession. I have the original title deed to prove ownership,” he said.
Following the alleged encroachment, the former lawmaker says that he has been unable to utilise the portion of the land that the squatters have illegally occupied.
African Inland Church Makutano, Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki and Mubuyuni Primary School are some of the defendants listed in the suit.
Mr Criticos has also sued Third Engineering Bureau of China, the company that built the Mwatate-Taveta road, for allegedly encroaching on his land and causing destruction. He wants the company to compensate him for damages he suffered after it encroached on his land.
Through his lawyer Oscar Avedi, the former MP wants the land registration department stopped from issuing the documents to the residents until the case he has filed against 40 individuals is heard and determined.
He also wants the permanent structures erected on the land removed and the occupants stopped from building houses or dividing the property.
“The defendants’ actions are contrary to the legal provision on the sanctity of the title, peaceful and quiet enjoyment of property. I pray for a declaration that the defendant’s encroachment on the suit land is illegal and ask for their eviction,” Mr Criticos said.
He said that despite knowing that he is in possession of the original title deed for the property, the Land ministry proceeded to prepare title deeds and issued them to the locals.
“I pray for mandatory and permanent injunction directing the defendants to remove all encroachments and further that the defendants be stopped from further construction, which is an encroachment,” said Mr Criticos.
But Ms Ruth Lelewa, who is among the 40 individuals who have been sued, said she purchased the property in 2001 and since then, she has been the legal owner of the plot that is now being claimed by the former MP.
“It is not true that I have illegally moved into Mr Criticos' property. I bought the property after the complainant sold the same to a settlement scheme,” Ms Lelewa said.
According to court documents produced by the defendants, Mr Criticos sold the land in 1990 to the Settlement Trust Fund Trustee and it was later consolidated with another one to form Lake Jipe Settlement Scheme.
It was then that this land was subdivided and allocated to the locals, who in turn paid for the processing of title deeds.
“The subdivision and allocation of the land in question was at the instance of Mr Criticos having been fully paid the purchase price following his offer for the sale of land to the Settlement Trustees Fund,” Ms Lelewa said.
The locals have maintained that they are the legal owners of the suit property, having bought it and paid for the title deeds.
“The claims of encroachment are baseless and lack merit. Mr Criticos, without any right, is maliciously attempting to circumvent my inalienable legal rights to own property without any undue interference by a stranger to the ownership,” Ms Lelewa said.
The parties in the dispute have been given time to file the documents they will rely on in the case.
The case will be heard on November 20.