A subsidiary of Centum Investment Company Plc has won a battle for over a 3,900-acre parcel of land against a group of residents in Kilifi after a judge ruled that a title being held by the community was illegal.
Justice Millicent Odeny dealt the Bambani and Kikandale community a blow after declaring that the Deed, which they acquired in July 2020 was superimposed to another held by Vipingo Development Ltd, a unit of the Nairobi Securities Exchange-listed company.
The judge also rejected a claim by the residents led by Wycliffe Tembo Mwangome that their case was about historical injustices but about whether they acquired their title regularly.
“I concur with the above finding that the petitioners did not prove that their forefathers resided on the suit parcels of land and which parcels of land in particular,” said the judge.
Residents through a community-based organisation sought the court’s nod to be declared the registered owners of the property measuring about 3,911 acres.
It was their argument that the certificate of lease issued to Vipingo Development Ltd was null and void.
The court heard that Bambani is a community-based organisation registered to champion community land rights and address historical land injustices arising from pre-colonial and colonial government land evictions of the locals, who have been rendered squatters.
They told the court that the land was acquired by the colonial government and later subdivided and leased out to Rea Vipingo Plantations Limited for a period of 999 years, part of which was used for sisal farming.
And before the lapse of the lease, they agitated for the land to revert back to them as they ought to have been given priority.
Locals claimed that Rea Vipingo Plantations Limited surrendered the parcels of land in 2000 back to the government and it was subsequently allocated to them and they paid Sh6 million to acquire it.
They also claimed that they were in the process of subdividing the land when they were arrested and later released on police bond.
Centum denied the claims and said it purchased 10,254 acres from Rea Vipingo Plantations Ltd in 2015.
The company said it has initiated various developments on the purchased land including the construction of affordable housing, supporting local educational infrastructure development, and construction of a large-scale water desalination plant to supply water to local residents and investors.
The company also revealed that the title deed to the land was charged to the Bank of South Africa for a loan of $45 million (Sh5.5 billion), for development plans.
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“The evidence on record confirms that since the parcels of land were not available for allocation, then any title or lease documents that resulted from the allocation were illegal, null and void as there were existing titles,” said the judge.
She said the title, which the residents were waving was illegal because it was erroneously issued as there were existing titles to the land.