Deputy President William Ruto was on Friday ordered to pay Sh5 million to a post-election violence victim for illegally occupying his land.
The High Court’s order adds to the legal baggage Mr Ruto carries over Kenya’s political turmoil of 2007 and 2008.
The Deputy President is set to stand trial at the International Criminal Court over charges related to the post-election violence on September 10.
Mr Adrian Gilbert Muteshi accused Mr Ruto of hatching a plot to grab his 100-acre farm in Uasin Gishu during the 2008 post-election violence when he [Mr Muteshi] had fled for safety.
The High Court in Nairobi ruled that Mr Muteshi had proved that the property was his and that he had been deprived of it.
Mr Ruto stated that he was an unsuspecting buyer who heard that some land was being sold and conducted due diligence before purchasing it from people he believed were the owners of the property.
Last year, he had offered to vacate the land in an out-of-court settlement. But the deal collapsed when Mr Muteshi demanded compensation and payment of the cost of his suit.
The matter went to trial, and Mr Ruto chose not to give oral evidence in court. However, he sent Uasin Gishu businessman Hosea Ruto, who was involved in the land sale, to testify on his behalf.
Mr Muteshi also sued the Attorney-General and Ms Dorothy Yator, who was said to have sold the land to Mr Ruto and the surveyor who sub-divided the property.
Reacting to the judgment, Mr Muteshi said he was not satisfied with the Sh5 million compensation. “It’s not a lot of money,” he said. “If you harvest maize for five years from somebody’s land, obviously there is much more value to that.”
He said he accepted the judge’s decision and was glad that the land had reverted to him.
Lady Justice Rose Ougo cleared Ms Yator, noting that she was consistent in her evidence that she had never had any dealings with the Deputy President and that her signatures were forged in the land sale deal.
The judge concluded that evidence showed that Mr Muteshi owned the land and that he still had the title deed.
She also concluded that the land was irregularly and fraudulently subdivided and sold to Mr Ruto. She did not hold the Deputy President liable in the irregular dealings with the land.
“I can only attribute the irregular acts to Hosea Ruto (Mr Ruto’s witness) as honourable Ruto chose not to testify,” Justice Ougo said.
The businessman was the only witness the Deputy President presented to court in his defence.
During the trial, Mr Hosea Ruto noted that he acted on behalf of the Deputy President and organised a meeting between him and the alleged agents of the seller — Mr Bethuel Kipsang and Mr Peter Kosgei.
The two men, posing as agents of Ms Yator and her husband, Daudi Kiptugen, met with Mr Ruto, then Agriculture minister, in his office and struck a deal to sell the land to him, the court heard.
But Ms Yator told the court her signatures were forged to facilitate the sub-division and transfer the property to Mr Ruto.