Keroka Town boundary dispute: Kisii governor Simba Arati plans to appeal decision even as Nyamira's Nyaribo agrees with court ruling

keroka town

Keroka Town, which is at the border of Kisii and Nyamira counties and has been at the centre of a dispute over tax zones.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

A Nyamira court on Thursday ordered revenue collectors from either Kisii or Nyamira counties to stick to their "known" territories when carrying out their duties in Keroka town.

The ruling is aimed at resolving a long-standing boundary dispute between the two counties on the county boundaries in the town.

Land and Environment Court Judge Kamau Mugo said that the National Lands Commission (NLC) and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) had already erected beacons in the disputed area to clearly mark the boundary between the two counties, in compliance with a previous court order.

"It doesn't take rocket science to know where the boundary between Nyamira and Kisii counties is," said Justice Mugo.

But while Nyamira County Governor Amos Nyaribo, who was in court for the ruling, agreed with the decision, his Kisii counterpart, Simba Arati, expressed dissatisfaction with the ruling and hinted that they would appeal to the Court of Appeal.

Mr Arati was represented by his lawyers during the court session.

"I agree with the judgement and I think it will promote peace in Keroka and it is a precedent that would be followed in case of any future engagement in a matter like this," said Governor Nyaribo.

On the other hand, the Kisii County government, through advocate Ochieng Oginga, expressed dissatisfaction with the ruling and said they would head to the Court of Appeal to appeal the rulling.

"On behalf of my client, we are not satisfied with the decision and we intend to appeal," said Mr Oginga.

In particular, the Kisii County lawyers were unhappy with the High Court's assertion that it had jurisdiction to determine the boundary.

They argued that under the Urban Areas and Cities Act, it is the Cabinet Secretary who is responsible for selecting an ad hoc committee made up of representatives from both counties, the national government and the IEBC.

The judge also condemned the possible double taxation of vendors by the two counties, saying it would be a gross violation of their rights.

"It is hereby declared that forcing the residents of Keroka town to pay rates, rentals or any other levies to both Kisii and Nyamira counties is a gross violation of the property rights of the affected traders," said Judge Mugo.

The judge issued another mandatory order, compelling the two counties to each submit a report to their respective county assemblies on "how they have used the money in a joint account they opened for revenue collection in Keroka since 2013".

The accountability exercise before the two assemblies must be completed within 90 days, the judge ordered.

Despite the declaration, the judge noted that the petitioner had failed to prove to the court that there was double taxation of traders in Keroka by the two counties.

The petition was filed on April 14, 2023 by Rigoma Ward MCA Nyambega Gisesa, who wanted to know whether the trading town was in Kisii or Nyamira County.

The court also directed that anyone who may be aggrieved by the service delivery agreement signed between the two counties on May 21, 2014 in respect of Keroka town under Section 118 of the County Governments Act should first seek mediation, arbitration or conciliation under the Inter-Governmental Relations Act No 20 of 2012.

In May 2023, Judge Mugo summoned officials from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and the National Lands Commission (NLC) over the Keroka boundary.