The Catholic Church has agreed to surrender 600 acres of land to villagers in Nyeri who sued it for eviction during the Mau Mau war in a landmark decision that could help others uprooted from their homes during the fight for Independence to get property back.
Most of these families were displaced from their farms and taken to concentration camps and their land taken by missionaries and white settlers. The Archdiocese of Nyeri has recorded a consent with the 300-member Mathari Village self-help group that sued the missionary church for taking their ancestral land.
The consent was recorded at the Environment and Land Court in Nyeri by Justice Lucy Waithaka and signed by the squatters’ lawyer Charles Karweru and lawyer John Mugambi for the Church. It will be adopted as a court order, the judge said.
According to the document, which lays down procedures for the subdivision of the expansive land of coffee farms, schools and hospitals, this brings to an end the dispute in which the squatters accused the church of grabbing.
“It was our forefathers who were residing in areas under dispute before the state of emergency,” the petitioner explained.
They claimed part of about 3,750 acres were grabbed by Consolata Missionaries following an order by the British government in 1954.
“The defendant (Church) being the registered owner of LR No 1105/5 11o6/6 11943/2 and 9462/2 does hereby agrees to excise 600 acres from the said land parcels to be transferred to the entitled plaintiffs within six months,” reads the consent.
The parties agreed sub-division will be as per the survey works done by Gichoho Ngugi.
Amenities in the disputed land will be catered for during the sub-division exercise.
“The plaintiffs do facilitate the one mission of the said survey works to the defendants’ appointed surveyor for verification and registration of the survey works,” the document further reads.
The squatters will cater for the title deeds registration and stamp duty.
The squatters claimed they were labourers in the church expansive coffee farms.
The Church opposed the said excision, noting claims of adverse possession could not arise when the church had been in occupation of the said land.