Kenya Power faces probe over Chokaa demolitions

Chokaa demolitions

An earthmover brings down a house in Chokaa in Mihango Ward in March 2019.

Photo credit: Collins Omulo | Nation Media Group

Senators are pushing for the compensation and resettlement of 500 families whose houses were illegally demolished by Kenya Power in Chokaa in 2019 .

The MPs, who have commenced investigations into the matter, also want Kenya Power fined should the firm be found to beat fault and the officers involved held accountable.

The development comes after affected residents petitioned the Senate last week over the demolitions that rendered the families homeless and destitute.

Nominated Senator Mariam Omar, while presenting the petition, said the parastatal in April 2019 demolished houses in Chokaa in Mihang'o Ward, claiming they were built on a wayleave.

She said the utility firm executed the demolitions despite then President Uhuru Kenyatta ordering it to call off the move.

The senator pointed out that flattening of the structures was in bad faith as a search at the Survey of Kenya showed that Kenya Power did not own the disputed land. Residents claimed that, following demolitions, Kenya Power decoded the area, which was an afterthought and illegal. Further, they said, at no point did the firm communicate with the residents to resolve any issues on the alleged encroachment of the wayleave.

“Apart from leaving nearly 500 families homeless, [learning was interrupted] because schools ...had been destroyed. Some residents also lost their livelihoods since their businesses were demolished,” the petition says.

“It is also worth noting that one of the residents committed suicide as a result of frustration, trauma and shock caused by the illegal demolitions.”

Senator Omar said the petitioners want the House to investigate the matter with a view of ensuring that the victims are resettled and adequately compensated by Kenya Power.

The issue has been handed over to the Senate Committee on Land and Environment chaired by Nyanadarua Senator John Methu. Senate Majority Leader Aaron Cheruiyot said the committee should establish the truth and recommend action against Kenya Power.

“If Kenya Power is found to be at fault, first of all, they should impose a fine. We have that responsibility, and it is possible. We can give such directions and propose that the citizens be compensated,” said Mr Cheruiyot.

The Kericho senator said it is time Parliament comes up with laws to guide evictions with clear procedure to be followed in order to curb instances where people are evicted in the dead of the night.

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei faulted Kenya Power for going ahead with the illegal demolitions.

“Somebody must be held accountable for the loss of houses. Even if they wanted to acquire that part of the property, they should have at least ensured that the people are compensated,” said Mr Cherargei.

Narok Senator Ledama Olekina said the courts had stopped the demolitions, but Kenya Power blatantly disregarded the orders issued on March 14 and April 5, 2019. He cited a case in his county where the utility firm had insisted that the houses were built on a wayleave, but a search had shown there was no such wayleave.

“The former President had issued an Executive Order to stop those demolitions, but no one respected them. Are there companies in this country that are above the law?” Mr Olekina posed. Makueni Senator Dan Maanzo decried fraudulent evictions where notices are not issued or court orders obeyed.

“This has been the experience not only in this particular place, but in many other places where people have been evicted without proper notices,” said the senator. He narrated how people go to court, obtain a judgement or a ruling ex-parte and end up evicting others.

“If you are not quick enough, then the events end up being very sadistic. Again, by the time you go back to court, you will already have been overtaken by events.”