The controversy surrounding a 25,000-acre parcel of land in Eldoret that has been the subject of a bitter court case between a group of squatters and the Mark Too family has taken another twist as some politicians have shown interest.
Faceless individuals under the protection of Uasin Gishu Senator Jackson Mandago and Kapseret Mp Oscar Sudi have taken over the land and have even tilled it ready for maize planting later this month.
This is despite an order from the Supreme Court that prohibits anyone from accessing the land or interfering with it. The Supreme Court gave the order in December after Fanikiwa Limited which is associated with former Mp Mark Too lost a case lodged by Sirikwa Squatters at the Court of Appeal.
In a verdict that was a major indictment to the former nominated MP, in his death, the Court of Appeal found that he had hatched a plot to swindle Sirikwa Squatters Group a 25,000 acres property.
The High Court had given Too’s family at least 66.7 acres out of the contested land.
However, Court of Appeal judges Patrick Kiage, Kathurima M’inoti, and Mumbi Ngugi have also overruled the High Court by finding that the former politician was not an innocent buyer.
They have ordered that part should revert to the squatters as it was part of a scam plot to take away the land from the squatters.
“Mr Too was simply the prime mover in the scheme to swindle Sirikwa of the surrendered land and cannot be described by any stretch of the imagination as an innocent purchaser. The transaction relating to the 27 hectares (66.7 acres) was tainted by fraud and misrepresentation and was completely unworthy of protection by the court,” they ruled.
According to the judges, Too was the master mover of the fraud and therefore could not claim that he bought the property as an innocent purchaser.
They continued: “Having found that Mr Too was part and parcel of the misrepresentation and fraudulent allocation and transfer to himself and Fanikiwa of the parcels of land that were expressly surrendered for settlement of the Sirikwa squatters, we find no basis or justification for the award of the 27 hectares to Mr Too.
The judges observed that Too was the master mover of the fraud and therefore could not claim that he bought the property as an innocent purchaser.
“Having found that Mr Too was part and parcel of the misrepresentation and fraudulent allocation and transfer to himself and Fanikiwa of the parcels of land that were expressly surrendered for settlement of the Sirikwa squatters, we find no basis or justification for the award of the 27 hectares to Mr Too.
The Sirikwa squatters living near the Moi International Airport, Eldoret, went to court in 2007 and sued various government departments, Lonrho Agribusiness East Africa Company, Mark Too, David Korir, and others for grabbing their land.
According to the squatters, the politician conspired to hive off the 25,000 acres in 12 parcels with different acreages they claimed were allocated to them by the late President Daniel Moi in 1998, through a presidential decree.
Sirikwa members argued that over time, the title to the property changed hands, ultimately ending up in the name of Lonrho Agribusiness which in discussions with Sirikwa and the government agreed to surrender the suit properties.
But despite the courts having pronounced themselves on the matter, some 300 acres of the land has been hived out and given to a senior government official who plans to put up a university and a five-star hotel.
Senior politicians in Eldoret led by Sudi and Mandago are said to be using both police and youth to frustrate squatters as tractors till he land.
“Even when few of our members meet in Eldoret town, either the police or hooligans come to disperse us, we now fear for our lives,” said a member of the Sirikwa Squatters.
The squatters occupied the land in November immediately after winning their case at the Court of Appeal. Some had even moved their cows and tractors to the farm as they awaited the adjudication of the land.
Police however evicted them violently and in the process took some of their belongings. The squatters are now complaining that a tractor, several motorbikes, cows and iron sheets that were seized by police from Langas and Kiambaa police stations are being held at the stations.
“The politicians are using the police badly. The entire operation is being guided by Rift Valley police commandant. These people look determined to deny us the justice that the courts gave us,” said another member of the squatters