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Former Moi aide in Karura land dispute

Sunday October 11 2015

Joshua Kulei

Joshua Kulei, former private secretary for retired President Daniel Moi. His firm is accused of illegally fencing off part of Moi International Airport in Mombasa. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

BENSON WAMBUGU
By BENSON WAMBUGU
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BY BENSON WAMBUGU
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A company associated with business tycoon Joshua Kulei (pictured) is on the spot over a piece of land it irregularly sold to a foreign investor to build high-end hotels worth Sh1.1 billion in Karura Forest.
Sian Enterprises Ltd, where the former President Moi’s aide is a director, teamed up with Masai Villas Ltd and Star Prime Ltd to dispose of the 4.5 hectares parcel to York Worldwide Holdings, a company registered in British Virgin Islands.
York Worldwide argued in court that at the time the United Nations complex was developed, there was an idea to build hotels to serve the diplomatic community within Gigiri in Nairobi.
However, the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) obtained an interim court injunction stopping any construction on grounds that the parcel claimed by the investor was part of the gazetted area of Karura Forest.
Seeking to secure the property, the investor moved to court two years ago and lodged a constitutional petition against KFS and the Attorney-General, accusing them of discrimination and unfair administration of justice.
The investor claims it received the certificate of title on the three parcels of 4.5 hectares from Sian Enterprises, Masai Villas and Star Prime on December 30, 2002.
But the day the firm’s director Mr Bernard Haissly said the land was transferred to York Worldwide, it was a public holiday as Mr Mwai Kibaki was being inaugurated as President.
Mr Haissly, who is based in Geneva, claims its parcel was part of the land degazetted from Karura in 1989. He contends that its three titles had no encumbrance and was duly issued by the Government of Kenya. 
Through lawyer Ochieng Oduol, Mr Haissly urged the court to order KFS to remove the security fence from a section of Karura and compensate them for damages and losses it has incurred in pursuing its “legitimate” property. But the perimeter fence the investor claims had been erected by KFS belongs to the UNEP headquarters to the west and ICRAF to the south.
On the strength that the 4.5 hectares, according to the court documents, was hived off from ICRAF, York Worldwide argued that it would be unfair that ICRAF would retain its parcel and the investor dispossessed.
In 2005, the Ndung’u Land Commission, which inquired into illegal and irregular allocation of public land, recommended the revocation of certificate of title obtained by York Worldwide Holdings. 
Mr Haissly has faulted the Ndung’u commission report, saying its recommendations did not recognise provisions of the Kenyan Constitution and should not be used to frustrate the investor’s legal entitlement to the three parcels.
On September 17, Lady Justice Mumbi Ngugi allowed a conservation group, Friends of Karura Forest Community Association to join the case as an interested party.
The association told the court that it was involved in the management of the forest for the benefit of the general public.
York Worldwide had opposed the group’s participation in the proceedings wondering what it would tell the court that KFS and the AG cannot. The investor argued that no matter how noble the group’s undertaking, it had no legitimate interest in the dispute.
But Friends of Karura, through its chairman, told Justice Ngugi that it signed a memorandum of understanding with the KFS in 2009 undertaking to campaign and sensitise the public on the environmental importance and conserving Karura Forest.
 “Friends of Karura, has, in my view, an unidentifiable interest that would justify its participation in the present court proceedings,” said the judge.