How photos of makuti houses, boreholes helped elderly men win land dispute

Mombasa law courts.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

With photographs of makuti-thatched houses, boreholes and mature trees, three people have become the new owners of a prime plot measuring more than 20 hectares without breaking a sweat.

Mohamed Ruwa, Anthony Mulwa and Ahmed Randa needed to prove that they had lived on the land by producing evidence that included images of their houses and any other proof.

The Environment and Land Court ruled that they had proved actual occupation of more than 12 years.

Justice Addraya Dena declared that the three are qualified to get a land title deed by adverse possession.

“The deputy land registrar is hereby ordered to execute all the appropriate documents necessary to effect the transfer to the three people,” the judge said

Justice Dena also directed the Kwale land registrar to list the land in the names of the three as common proprietors.

This ruling means that Mr Pritam Singh Panesar, who was the owner of the land, has lost proprietorship and cannot lay claim to it unless the decision is overturned by the Court of Appeal.

Mr Ruwa, Mr Mulwa and Mr Randa approached the court last year and asked to be declared owners of the property, having lived on it since their childhood. They listed Mr Panesar as the respondent.

To support their case, Mr Ruwa, 60, testified that he was born on the property, which had been previously occupied by his parents and his family.

“Our stay in this property has been continuous and uninterrupted,” he said.

He explained that they were prompted to move to the court after they got wind that Mr Panesar was thinking about selling the land.

Strangers had also started visiting the land and threatening to evict them.

“I have never seen Mr Panesar since I was born, and he has not come to evict us from the land,” said Ruwa, who testified on behalf of the group.

Their case was based on four main grounds: they had been on the land for more than 12 years; Mr Panesar did not invite or permit them to use and or occupy the land; their use of the property has been open, continuous and uninterrupted since 1962; and the owner has not tried to remove them from the property.

The case proceeded unopposed, as Mr Panesar was served with court documents but did not appear in court or send a representative to defend his property.

Before issuing its decision, the court ordered a survey and a report on the status of the land.

The court found that Mr Panesar was registered as the absolute owner of the property on July 9, 2009.

Justice Dena reviewed the survey and report and concluded that there was sufficient evidence to prove actual occupation.

“I have considered the photographs presented which show livestock, a house and some bush areas and a makuti-thatched boundary. The ground status report herein confirms that three houses were found existing, two boreholes and mature trees. On this basis I’m convinced that there is actual occupation,” said the judge.

The judge also found that the three and their families had occupied the property for 13 years from the time Mr Panesar was registered as proprietor to the time the case was filed in 2021.

“Indeed, the claim for adverse possession has already matured. I am persuaded that Ruwa, Mulwa and Randa have proved adverse possession and accordingly they have acquired title in the land against Panesar and any person registered as proprietor,” said the judge.

Justice Dena concluded that the three had demonstrated that their occupation of the property has been open and uninterrupted with no secrecy.


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