Reprieve for Kakuzi as court halts group’s petition in land row

National Land Commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri
National Land Commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

NSE-listed agricultural firm Kakuzi Plc #ticker:KUKZ has obtained High Court orders restraining the National Land Commission (NLC) from hearing a petition by a group that is laying claim on its 39,323-acre piece of land.

Justice Wilfrida Okwany issued the orders pending the hearing of an application Kakuzi filed, in which the firm seeks to declare unconstitutional a clause in the Land Act that gives power to NLC to deal with historical injustices The group, Kakuzi Division Development Association, has 3,684 members.

It has petitioned the NLC, laying claim to the Kakuzi land.

The group argues that Kakuzi occupies their ancestral land from which the colonial government displaced them.

“That in the meantime pending the hearing of the application inter parties and determination thereof, this honourable court be pleased to grant conservatory orders staying the proceeding before the second respondent in Nairobi, NLC/HLI/006/2017 being historical land injustices complaint filed by interested party,” ordered Justice Okwany.

The judge further ordered the matter to be mentioned on September 19 for further directions.

Kakuzi is challenging Section 15 (3) (b) (i) of the NLC Act, which permits the commission to admit and investigate claims that arose out of legally protected acts at the time the challenged actions happened and sections15 (3) (b) (ii) that allows NLC to investigate time-barred claims.

Kakuzi claims that since it has no access to the evidence and witnesses to put up a robust defence against the allegations that happened during colonial times hence infringing on their constitutional rights of a fair hearing.

The firm argues that the Constitution prohibits Parliament from enacting laws that permit state or any other individual from arbitrarily depriving a person’s interest in a property.

The firm notes that it acquired the properties L.R NO 11674 and L.R.No 10731 on which it carries out agricultural business in 1966 and 1963.

The petitioner in their claim filed with the commission claim that they were forcefully evicted from their land by colonialists who burnt their houses, confiscated their animals and left the destitute.

But they argue that at the independence instead of reverting the land to their original owners the land was allocated to other individuals and companies.

They claim that despite their insatiable search for justice, their cries have fallen on deaf ears.