Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui has announced that the 41-year Oljorai land dispute that has claimed scores of lives will be settled through Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanisms.
Mr Kinyanjui stated that his administration was working with the National Land Commission (NLC), County Commissioner Erastus Mbui Mwenda and other stakeholders to set up a committee to solve the tussle between Solai–Ruyoibei Farm Limited and Oljorai Land Buying Company that have been laying claim to the 8,000-acre parcel of land.
The governor noted that the dispute had led to loss of life, property and even disrupted peace as the tussle continued dragging on. This, he noted, must come to an end and thereafter allow people to live peacefully and rebuild their lives.
Just three weeks ago a former civic leader at the defunct Nakuru County Council Charles Olare Chebet was killed and several others injured at the farm in Gilgil Sub-County after a fight broke out between members of the two land buying companies.
The former civic leader who prior to his death after being shot on the head with an arrow, had addressed a press conference and identified himself as the Chairman of Solai–Ruyoibei Farm Limited wondered how the Registrar of Land’s office in Naivasha subdivided the vast farm yet the mother title was deposited at the Environment and Lands court in Nakuru.
He said they had won the case against Oljorai Limited. “We have fought this battle in court for a long time, and the court ruled in our favour. We are aware of an appeal, but until it is determined, we shall pitch tent here,” said Olare.
Mr Kinyanjui spoke when he addressed residents of Eburu Mbaruk Ward in Gilgil. He was accompanied by Gilgil MP Martha Wangari, Eburru Mbaruk Member of County Assembly Samuel Kariuki and his nominated counterpart Anne Kimani.
“Over the years we have witnessed an orgy of violence and senseless killings over this land tussle. We urge residents not to take the law into their hands as there are other avenues for resolution of disputes without recourse to violence,” noted Mr Kinyanjui.
Kinyanjui observed that calls on the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to probe the subdivision of the disputed former Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) land and protracted court battles were only aggravating the situation.
The governor regretted that the Oljorai ownership wrangles had locked up land worth billions of shillings.
He stated that the 2016 Community Land Act encourages the application of traditional dispute resolution mechanisms in land conflicts.
“The county has been training officers from the county and national governments on alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to help fast-track the titling process.
Some land conflicts that have seen their way to the courts have allegedly been characterized by foul play, corruption, inefficiency, delays, technicalities and solutions that mainly leave the disputing parties as sworn enemies,” said the governor.
Peter Ole Osono also a former Councilor at the defunct Nakuru County Council and Director of Oljorai Land Buying Company has conceded that the Environment and Lands court in Nakuru declared more than 3,000 titles relating to the 8,000-acre land null and void. He however says his company had appealed against the ruling.
“Ours is to urge Solai Ruyoibei Farm officials to be patient as courts resolve the dispute. Land ownership is a sensitive matter that needs to be addressed through laid down procedures,” noted the former councillor.
Justice Sila Munyao, in a ruling delivered by Justice John Mutungi in November last year, declared: “It is hereby declared that the titles of Kiambogo/Kiambogo Block 3/1 to 3320 (Oljorai Company Limited) are all fraudulent titles and all null and void,” said Munyao.
In the judgment, the court had ordered the Chief Land Registrar and the District Land Registrar to expunge from their records all the 3,320 title deeds claimed to be genuine and dismissed the case filed by Oljorai Company Limited.
Through their lawyer Steve Opar, Solai-Ruyoibei members have questioned how more than 3,000 titles were issued by the land registrar’s office despite an order in 2013 to have the mother title deed deposited in court during the hearing of the matter.
“We want the DCI to find out how the land registrar’s office subdivided Oljorai farm whereas the mother title was still in court since 2013,” Opar said.
Opar says the revoked titles were issued in 2014 and 2015 when the mother title deed was still in the custody of the court.
“The titles revoked by the court had been fraudulently acquired after the mother title deed was deposited in court. Some were issued to unsuspecting buyers as from 2014/15/16 and 2018,” he adds.
Opar is optimistic that Solai-Ruyoibei will be declared the rightful proprietor of the parcel by the lands’ court after a decade of the bruising legal battle.
However, Ole Osono counters that Solai-Ruyoibei have been served with court orders barring them from setting foot on the land until the matter before the Court of Appeal is heard and determined. He says the residents had been provoked into violence after the invaders erected a tent at a private home.
County Commissioner Erastus Mbui regrets that Ruyoibei members, who live in Solai, have been impatient with the ongoing court process that had stopped eviction of Oljorai members from the land. “In the latest skirmishes a group of 25 people, with the intention to set their own base and later occupy the land, was reported to have invaded the farm. They should have involved the police for their safety,” says Mr Mbui.
Gilgil Sub-County Police Commander John Onditi warns that security personnel will not tolerate individuals who were inciting residents into acts of lawlessness using land disputes as an excuse.
He faults officials of Solai Ruyoibei farm for invading the land despite Oljorai Land Company having obtained court orders barring them from doing so, pending an appeal the latter has filed in an ownership dispute in the High Court.
Mr Onditi says additional security personnel have been deployed in the area to maintain law and order between the warring groups that have been involved in skirmishes while armed with bows, arrows and clubs.
By Jane Ngugi/Dennis Rasto