A dispute over ownership of the scenic Chale Island in the South Coast has spilled to court as the corruption watchdog seeks to have title deeds issued to individuals on parcels of land on the island declared null and void.
In more than 20 separate suits filed at the Environment and Land Court in Mombasa, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) says the parcels of land were fraudulently hived off land reserved as the Chale Island Sacred Grove and Diani Chale Marine National Park.
The anti-corruption agency wants an order directing the land registrar in charge of Kwale to rectify the register by cancelling all entries related to the issuance of the titles over the parcels of land on the island.
On Friday, the EACC, through an advertisement in the local dailies, served summonses on several defendants to enter appearance in the suit in the next 15 days.
The EACC, which has named the National Museums of Kenya and the Kenya Wildlife Service as interested parties in the suit, says Chale Island is a culturally and ecologically sensitive habitat that enjoys protection.
“The island was preserved as a monument of historical and cultural interest and an area of land requiring maintenance, thus a protected area,” states part of the suit documents.
EACC says the island, together with the surrounding waters of the Indian Ocean, having been gazetted and reserved as a monument and a marine national reserve, was not available for allocation.
However, in disregard of gazette notices, the island was subdivided, registered and the parcels of land transferred to various individuals as registered owners, as an extension of the Kinondo Chale Settlement Scheme, says the EACC.
It further says that the defendants had knowledge of the alienation of the land, yet actively participated in the acquisition of defective titles.
According to the EACC, the defendants acquired portions of the island for private use without following the lawful process to change use from gazetted Chale Island Sacred Grove and a marine national reserve.
The EACC says former land registrars in Kwale engaged in a systematic perversion of procedures intended to protect public interest to divert a public resource for unjust enrichment of individuals.
The anti-graft agency also says the registrars took advantage of legitimate intention to settle squatters in the Kinondo Chale Settlement Scheme to hive off portions of land reserved for use as a public utility.
The anti-corruption agency is also seeking a permanent injunction against the defendants, restraining them from taking possession of or dealing with the parcels of land other than surrendering them to the government.
The cases will be mentioned on March 10 for directions.