The National Land Commission (NLC) has told a court that it has the right to hear a petition where a group of Murang'a residents are claiming 39,323-acres of land owned by listed agricultural firm Kakuzi Plc.
NLC said the petition, filed by residents organised under Kakuzi Division Development Association claiming the property as their ancestral land, meets the threshold for a claim based on historical land injustice.
Kakuzi is challenging sections of the NLC Act, which allows the commission to investigate the validity of land deals that happened within the law and time barred claims.
The agro-based listed firm said it acquired the land under two titles in 1963 and 1966 in an area where the British colonialists were active in farming.
“Once a complaint is determined to warrant a claim of historical land injustice occasioned, the second respondent (NLC) will publish a notice of intended review in the dailies notifying all interested parties the dates and venue of the scheduled hearings,” said the NLC.
“The contents of the complaint had warranted the second respondent to invoke its jurisdiction in line with Section 15 (1) the National Land Commission Act and admitted the complaint for historical land injustice over the petitioner’s subject parcel,” it added.
The petitioners in their claim filed with the Commission argue that they were forcefully evicted from their land by colonialists who burnt their houses, confiscated their animals and left them destitute.
They add that at independence instead of reverting the land to their original owners the land was allocated to other individuals and companies.
They claim that despite their search for justice, their cries have fallen on deaf ears.
But Kakuzi claims that it lacks access to the evidence and witnesses showing how land ownership changed before it bought the properties in the 1960s to defend itself against the claims made by Kakuzi Division Development Association. Kakuzi in August obtained High Court orders restraining NLC from hearing the petition.
The firm argues that the Constitution prohibits Parliament from enacting laws that permit the State or any other individual from arbitrarily depriving a person’s interest in a property.