The High Court has awarded the family of Mombasa businessman Afzalkhan Rahimkhan Sh9.9 billion in compensation for wrongful acquisition of their 328.5 acre piece of land in Diani, Kwale County.
Mombasa High Court judge Eric Ogola awarded the colossal amount after finding that government officials had collaborated with a private company to illegally acquire the land.
Justice Ogola arrived at the figure after pricing each of the 328.5 acres at Sh30 million.
Official records at the Registrar of Land show that the property has been subdivided among hundreds of individuals, making it difficult to recover in one piece.
Mr Rahimkhan’s children had alongside three other individuals —Daniel Mwangi, Pauline Mwongela and Sayed Mushtaq Hussain —sued the Chief Land Registrar, the Attorney-General and the Commissioner of Land, seeking compensation for the land that was transferred to Kasika Developers in 1978.
The businessman died in 1991 in the middle of a fight with the government over the property.
His children had in their petition claimed that their father was arrested and tortured to exert pressure on him to surrender the land, forcing him to flee to Tanzania where he died.
Kwale land registrar Evans Marwanga, however, denied the allegations, arguing that the Rahimkhan family was trying to make government pay for the land after losing its fight with private owners.
Justice Ogola found that the claims of torture could not be proved, but that the deceased businessman’s children—Rahimkhan Afzalkhan Rahimkhan and Shamsad Begum Rahimkhan — alongside Mr Mwangi and Ms Mwongela had provided enough proof of government involvement in the loss of their land.
Records at the land registry indicate that Mr Rahimkhan, Mr Mwangi and Ms Mwongela are still the legal owners of the disputed 328.5 acres of land, pointing to its illegal acquisition by third parties with the help of government.
“This property was illegally taken away from the petitioners. The takeover was carefully designed, and was effected with utmost impunity. Even after that takeover, the Chief Land Registrar did not bother to rectify the title to reflect the takeover. Those were mighty forces, and the petitioners could not do anything about this. The petitioners’ rights were violated and a wrong done does not rot,” the judge ruled.
Justice Ogola said he was satisfied that the petitioners had proved their case on a balance of probability and ordered that they be compensated.
“Since their claim is based on valuation per acre, this court is satisfied that the petitioners are entitled to be compensated at the market rate of Sh30 million per acre for 328.5 acres,” he ruled.
Mr Marwanga had in response argued that Mr Mwangi, who was then a district agricultural officer, abused his office by obtaining crucial information that helped the petitioners hijack a planned purchase of the land by Kasika Developers from its original owner, Reaby Eleanor Vere Wailes.