Nearly 40 years after the death of former National Assembly Deputy Speaker and Tinderet MP Jean Marie Seroney, his widow and 5,000 squatters are still battling over 1,500 acres of land he owned in Nandi County.
The late Seroney died in 1982 and left behind an unsettled bank loan to which the land he owned in Meteitei location, Tinderet Constituency, was attached.
Investigations by the Nation have established that squatters are battling with Seroney’s widow who is seeking to reclaim the land.
Ms Zipporah Seroney has lodged a petition before the Senate to recover the land after a series of cases with Kapkures Farmers Company who claim to be the genuine owners of the same land.
In an interesting twist, Ms Agnes Seroney, a sister to the former MP, claims that her brother had no wife at the time of his death, and that the Will he left behind did not name Zipporah as his wife. For this reason, she argues that Zipporah has no authority to reclaim the land, which the squatters allegedly bought from the bank legally.
“As a family, we witnessed the transfer of the land to the squatters and we had no objections to the squatters who bought it. My brother had no wife and Zipporah was not featured as Seroney's next of kin,” Agnes told the Senate Committee on Lands and Justice. She said her late brother’s Will should be upheld.
However, Zipporah told the committee that it was grabbed or illegally acquired over two decades ago without documentation and through public auctioning by National Bank, which sold it to recover Seroney’s loan.
In the submission presented by lawyer David Rioba Omboto, Zipporah claimed that the 1,546 acres of land were originally owned by Seroney through Kaprotuke Estate Limited. She further questioned the legal grounds used to transfer the land to various beneficiaries.
“There are settlers identified as squatters who have been living on the land and were given title deeds. They claimed that they bought the land, whose ownership has been disputed for many years, and the matter has been pending at the National Land Commission and the courts,” stated Mr Rioba.
Seroney was an outspoken politician who often criticised the Kanu regime over corruption and infringements on human rights.
Zipporah narrated that shortly before his arrest over his “Kanu is dead” statement in 1975, Seroney took a loan from the National Bank of Kenya of Sh1 million and surrendered his title deed as security. He was thrown into detention without trial on October 15, 1975.
“Zipporah took the initiative of paying the loan with the little she could afford during the time Mr Seroney was in detention. We have the statements indicating the payments, though she didn’t pay fully,” said Mr Rioba, adding that even after Seroney’s release in 1978, he couldn’t resume paying the loan since he had developed health complications that led to his death.
Ten years later, the lawyer said the bank demanded payment of the unknown loan balance. It first advertised the selling of the land in a public auction to recover the loan, but the auction did not take place due to lack of bidders. The bank advertised again and the squatters under Kipkures Farmers Company, who had already settled on over 200 acres, allegedly paid for the land in instalments.
According to Philip Sang, the Kapkures’s secretary at the time, the loan had accumulated to over Sh74 million and records of transactions made until 2003 to settle the debt are available.
“Though we faced litigation that delayed the succession process, the land was transferred to us by 2007 and over 600 members got title deeds,” he said.
“The 5,000 squatters are the genuine owners of the land, which was originally owned by a British citizen known as Allan Douglas whom the late Seroney bought the farm from. Nobody should come and evict us decades after the MP died,” Mr Sang added.