KenGen fails in bid to stop geothermal land dispute

Managing Director(MD) and Chief Executive Officer(CEO) of Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen), Ms Rebecca Miano on March 18, 2021. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG

KenGen has lost its bid to have a judge throw out a case filed by a land buying company in Naivasha over a disputed 3,000 acre parcel acquired for geothermal drilling over a decade ago.

Justice Mwangi Njoroge of the Environment and Land Court in Nakuru struck out the application by the State-owned power generator, saying an earlier suit brought by disgruntled members of Ng’ati Farmers’ Co-operative Society was not determined on merit.

KenGen had argued that the case by some of the farmers raised issues similar to another case, which was dismissed two years ago.

Some members of the Sacco have accused its former officials of short-changing them in sale of part the land to KenGen in 2013, arguing that the transaction was shrouded in secrecy and dishonesty because they were not consulted.

The earlier case was dismissed in 2020 over the failure to prosecute the case and KenGen argued that the farmers wanted to re-open issues that have already been determined.

“It is my view that a suit that has been dismissed for want of prosecution is not the same as a suit that has been heard and determined on its merits,” the judge said as he dismissed KenGen’s objection.

The members of the land buying company acquired the expansive land in Maela/Ndabibi area in 1964, but the society has been hit by wrangles over the years, first by a group of herders who settled on the farm and later claimed a huge portion through adverse possession.

The members later accused its leaders of failing to involve them in the deal to sell part of the land to KenGen. Evidence filed by the farmers allege that the land was sold for Sh505 million but the beneficiaries only got a fraction of the amount.

The 127 members allege that KenGen ought to have conducted a public participation forum in line with the Constitution to ensure the members were aware of the sale. They also claimed that the power generating company did not involve the National Land Commission (NLC), which is the custodian of all public land, in the process.

An earlier suit was, however, struck out after the society members failed to prosecute it. KenGen has always maintained that the transacted was above board an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was conducted and that there was no forceful evictions.

The former officials also defended the deal saying three independent valuers were engaged to carry out valuation works, including one hired by the society. KenGen has been putting up several geothermal power plants in Naivasha, as part of the State’s push to raise the share of renewable energy on the grid.

The company recently commissioned the Olkaria 1 Unit 6 which produces 83 megawatts of electricity to the national grid, boosting the government’s efforts to provide affordable power to consumers.

Geothermal plants, while having a small footprint themselves, require expansive land for well drilling.

Kenya has extensively explored the Olkaria geothermal field area over the decades and is now expanding into new areas such as Menengai in Nakuru and Baringo-Silali.

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