Anglican church, Kenya Prisons tussle over land in Kisumu’s posh Milimani estate

Church officials leave a parcel of land next to St. Stephens Cathedral ACK Church in Kisumu

Church officials leave a parcel of land next to St Stephens Cathedral ACK Church in Kisumu on July 27, 2023. Kenya Prison officers had earlier fenced off part of the land in what the clerics claimed is illegal and are now planning to move to court to get an injunction. 

Photo credit: Ondari Ogega | Nation Media Group

The Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) and Kenya Prisons are locked in a battle over a piece of land in Kisumu’s posh Milimani estate.

This follows a move by Kenya Prisons officials to erect a fence next to the ACK's St Stephen's Cathedral on July 25.

According to Maseno South diocesan administrative secretary Boniface Obondi, members of the church were shocked after prison officials invaded part of the 4.9-acre plot in the high-end estate.

"It was very irregular and absurd because they chose to jump the wall and fence the land without consulting the church administration," he said.

Without providing evidence of ownership, he pointed out that it was wrong for the government agency to attempt to occupy the land by force.

"The Church Commissioner for Kenya is the custodian of all land belonging to the church," he told the media.

Mr Obondi claimed the land, which was formerly occupied by Kodiaga Maximum Prison before it was moved to its current location in Otonglo, was transferred to the church by the Ministry of Lands and Housing in 1988.

"We have titles and proof of ownership. We have also challenged them to produce documents instead of terrorising our young learners who use the area as a playground," he said.

Despite the church's differing views on issues affecting the country, the Dean of St Stephen's Cathedral, Reverend Joseph Ochola Odera, said it was wrong for the church to be targeted.

"The church is the conscience of this society. We can't sit back and not speak out about the wrongs that are happening around us," he said.

Led by Nyanza Regional Prisons Commandant Patrick Nyaachi, the team from Kenya Prisons agreed to convene a joint meeting with the leadership of the church to address the impasse. Both parties are expected to submit proof of ownership.

Mr Nyaachi, however, did not address the media.

The move comes days after Anglican bishops, led by Bishop David Kodia, accused security agencies of using excessive force against residents of Nyalenda in Kisumu during the operation, which was led by prison officers from the region.

"As a church, it is our moral duty to point out what is wrong and we will not be intimidated into silence," said Rev Odera.

He said the church intends to seek a court injunction to stop Kenya Prisons from building on the land.

According to Mr Obondi, the church has a master plan for the land, which includes the construction of a clergyman's residence.