The High Court in Meru has nullified title deeds for the land on which the Sh70 billion Lake Turkana Wind Power project sits, saying it was acquired irregularly.
Judges Peter Muchoki Njoroge, Yuvinalis Angima and Grace Kemei said the Constitution was not followed when 150,000 acres of community land was allocated to Lake Turkana Wind Power Ltd.
But the judges declined to cancel the title deeds, giving the Marsabit County government, the Attorney-General, the Chief Land Registrar and the National Land Commission one year to regularise the process.
The court ruled that if the process is not completed by the end of the 12 months, the title deeds for the 310MW power producer will automatically be cancelled and the land will revert to the community.
In the landmark ruling that could open the way for the community to seek compensation, the government agencies will be required to hold public participation forums.
The judges highlighted the petitioners’ complaint that the wind farm, where the company has erected 365 turbine generators, is on 40,000 acres but the company has cordoned off 150,000 acres.
Mr Mohamed Itarakwa, Mr Kochale Jomo Jale, Mr Issa Jitengwe Gambare and Mr David Tomasot Arakhole, who filed the case, had protested that the community’s views were not sought.
Land for grazing
The petitioners, who represented residents of Laisamis constituency and Karare ward, where the project is situated, argued that they are unable to access the land for grazing and to hold communal circumcision rites.
Through lawyer Amina Hashi, the petitioners emphasised that the acquisition was not done in accordance with the Trust Land Act and the Constitution.
They wanted the title deeds for Africa’s largest wind farm nullified and the expansive land given back to the community.
But the judges said that though the law requires that irregularly issued titles be cancelled, they were not inclined to nullify a completed project.
“Titles issued irregularly, by the operation of the law, automatically invite cancellation,” said Justice Muchoki, who read the judgment.
The project generates 310 megawatts of green energy, equivalent to 17 per cent of the power produced on the national grid.
The case, filed in 2014, had dragged on for years, at one time seeing justices Boaz Olao, Enock Cherono and Lucy Mbugua disqualify themselves in a stormy hearing session.
Lake Turkana Wind Power, Kenya’s largest wind power project, recently confirmed the appointment of insider Phylip Leferink as new chief executive.
The green energy project is connected to the national grid by the 438km Loiyangalani-Suswa transmission line.
The plant was commissioned in July 2019 by President Kenyatta.