Lessons from Kanu’s loss of iconic KICC on irregular land allocations


Nairobi's iconic Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC). 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

I write as we mourn Principal Magistrate Monica Kivuti. Monica was shot while dispensing justice. My condolences to the family, and the legal fraternity. We must always remember that advocates, magistrates, and judges, along with other judicial officers, are our humble servants. They serve to ensure a sound justice system. Let’s therefore respect their decisions, and court premises.

Where aggrieved by matters touching on them, let’s use available appeal mechanisms. Forwards, Monica’s death should trigger the enhancement of security in courts for judicial officers and users.

Let me get back to the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC). Early this month, the Environment and Land Court ruled against a petition by the Kenya African National Union (Kanu), our independence political party, seeking to recover KICC.

The KICC was allocated to the former ruling party in 1989. Kanu was then under the chairmanship of President Daniel Arap Moi, who, along with Peter Oloo Aringo, served as its trustees. However, the government took it over through an Executive Order during President Mwai Kibaki’s regime. Kanu had petitioned to seek a declaration that it was the registered owner of the plot and that the government had unlawfully acquired it. It sought orders directing the government to give vacant possession, and seeking compensation following the unlawful acquisition.

After presentations by the petitioner and respondents, Justice Jacqueline Mogeni of the Environment and Land Court served judgment. She found that Kanu’s title was obtained illegally, unlawfully, and without following legal procedure. It was a nullity ab initio. The title was, therefore, revoked. Justice Mogeni subsequently declared that the lawful owner of the property is the Ministry of Tourism. Her ruling serves a good lesson.

One is that the Environment and Land Court continues to diversify jurisprudence, providing bold rulings on land disputes. The ruling demonstrates the need to embrace due process in obtaining title to land. Kanu was, for instance, unable to provide evidence of the processes leading to the issuance of its title. A more humbling lesson is for those bent on using high office to influence land allocation against established procedure and law.

KICC’s transfer to Kanu happened when President Moi, and one of his Cabinet ministers, were the party trustees. Put through judicial examination, this allocation to Kanu has collapsed. Let’s beware that titles issued irregularly are prone to revocation, time and might of the actors involved notwithstanding.

Moreover, good records and competent technical witnesses, are invaluable. During presentations, the government building surveyor presented compelling evidence from a government building’s register, with details of the period and amount of Exchequer funds used to construct KICC. This exposed it as a public asset.

The government physical planner contextualised the positioning of KICC within a “Government Square,” in keeping with the 1948 Nairobi City Master Plan. He further elaborated on the meaning of “public purpose” under our planning legislation, revealing the anomaly in allocating a public asset to Kanu, a private entity.

Ibrahim Mwathane(Consultant on land governance: [email protected]

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