In a single stroke, the National Land Commission has repossessed hundreds of public properties worth billions of shillings that had been grabbed and given to politicians and other politically correct individuals — and some of which features in the Ndung’u Report.
These include government houses, prisons land, forests, road reserves and land set aside for schools, churches and other public amenities.
The cancellation of the titles — perhaps the single largest since independence — will lead to litigations from third-parties who may have purchased the properties and financial institutions which might be left holding worthless securities. It will also be a triumph to activists who have all along demanded action against barons who had stolen public property with impunity.
Others will have their land regularised after the NLC approved the acquisition.
“Where the order calls for revocation, the Chief Land Registrar is thereby directed to revoke as per section 14(5) of the National Land Commission Act and attendant laws,” says Dr Muhammad Swazuri in a gazette notice.
The biggest repossession is that of Karura Forest in Nairobi, where 151 title deeds were revoked.
Parts of the forest land were grabbed between 1994 and 1999 by Kanu bigwigs who shared an estimated 2,000 acres of public land and sold it to private companies, triggering an environmental war with Greenbelt Movement leader, Prof Wangari Maathai, whose determination to save the forest saw her win the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize.
At the time, President Moi defended the grabbing of Karura, insisting that most of Nairobi was hitherto government forest.
Also revoked are all the 102 titles in Nairobi’s Woodley, a housing estate that belonged to the Nairobi City Council, and where all the houses were dished out during the Moi regime.
Woodley has been the target of grabbers since the property stands on prime land. Activists who have tried to follow up on the land have been killed.
With the revocation of titles, NLC is sending a message to land grabbers in Kenya that their time is up and no amount of litigation can save them.
The independent National Land Commission was formed to help restore sanity in land acquisition, which had seen huge chunks of government and public property dished out as rewards by central government and then-ruling Kanu party to politicians and power brokers.
The land was later sold to finance political campaigns. Most affected were road reserves and land set aside for public amenities like schools, hospitals, research centres, State corporations, recreation grounds and public toilets.
Various audited reports have found that government corporations such as the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) had invested more than Sh1.1 billion of workers’ money in public forests, which are gazetted areas, and which cannot be owned or developed. For instance, NSSF invested in 18.41 hectares in both Karura Forest and Ngong Forest.
Another controversial title was for the Eastleigh public market in Nairobi, which had been sold to Ali Sheikh Mohamed and Farah Mohamed Barrow for Sh500 million.
The land was initially owned by the national government, which leased it in 1985 to the Nairobi City Council for 99 years to erect stalls for small-scale traders.
But NCC later entered into a lease instrument with Alfa Traders, who then claimed ownership of the property.
The other affected is former Kiambu MP Stanley Githunguri, who has lost the multi-billion shilling Tassia estate in Nairobi, which is to revert to the Nairobi County government, which will hold in trust for residents of Fedha Estate. The land is identified as Nairobi block/97/1736.
Also, both Tassia and Fedha Estate properties are to surrender seven metres for a transport corridor free of charge.
That means that various multi-million shilling properties fronting the main road will have to be demolished.
In Kakamega, the family of Nasa principal Musalia Mudavadi has lost land which their father Moses Mudavadi grabbed from the Kakamega Golf Course/ Club when he was a senior Cabinet minister.
One of the oldest in western Kenya, the 88-year old golf club lost most of its property to senior government and influential figures who started building structures on it.
Previous attempts by officials to reclaim the land had failed. Others who had taken part of the land include the late John Katumanga who was the chairman of Kenya National Union of Teachers.
In Kisii, former Cabinet minister Sam Ongeri has also lost prime land that was meant for the construction of a municipal market in Kisii town.
Others who had also got the land include James Gisemba, a former Kisii mayor.
Also in Kisii, Kanu-era power broker Jared Kangwana is to lose public utility land which belonged to Kenya Agriculture Research and Livestock Organisation (Kalro) while another Moi-era Nakuru-based Kanu leader Geoffrey Asanyo is to return the ICDC land that he had received.
In Eldoret, all the grabbed prison land is to revert back to the government and, interestingly, some of it was in the hands of former prisons officials including former Prisons Commissioner Abraham Kamakil and Edward Lopokoiyit. Others were former assistant ministers William Morogo and Vincent Sakwa Mmaitsi.
Other titles revoked were in Kilifi, Mombasa, Thika, Kisumu, and Malindi.