Kenyatta University lecturers join fray over contested land

Prof Paul Wainaina

Kenyatta University students escort reinstated Vice-Chancellor Prof Paul Wainaina (centre) to his office on July 27. The VC had been sent home after he refused a directive to surrender part of the university’s land for reallocation.


Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The Kenyatta University land tussle continues to simmer after lecturers and students formally objected the planned subdivision of the land that saw its vice chancellor Prof Paul Wainaina pushed out at the tail end of the Jubilee administration.

Four lecturers, who are also members of the Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) — Petter Lemoosa, Benson Okebe, John Mugo Kindiri and Wilfrida Itolondo — have written to the national director of physical and land use planning, urging him to stop plans to transfer the university’s land to the World Health Organization, Kamae squatters, the Kenyatta University Teaching, Research and Referral Hospital (KUTRRH) and the African Centre Disease Control.

Currently, the KUTRRH sits at the university land but does not own a separate title deed.

“We are not opposed to the proposed developments. However, it is our considered view that this country is not short of land were such projects can be established. Even if it has to do with being stationed in Nairobi, we believe that some of those projects, if not all, can be located on the outskirts of Nairobi in the spirit of devolution,” reads the letter.

The dons said, currently, demolitions have taken place on the said parcels of land to pave way for the developments, which they say is happening illegally and will derail the institution’s future development plans. They said the subdivision amounts to forceful evacuation and invasion of the university land by the government.

“The Lands Act (2012) is clear that for public land to be allocated to private individuals, it shall require the approval of the National Assembly or County Assembly,” they said.

According to the lecturers, the university developed a master plan in 2014 that seeks to expand the institution. Among the projects proposed by the university include a children’s hospital, a women’s hospital, a Kenyatta University Teaching, Research and Referral Hospital (KUTRRH) under the university management, an athletics field, students hostel, a stadium and a college of health sciences.

However, former President Uhuru Kenyatta directed that the land be sub-divided to settle squatters who live in the Kamae area and allocate 200 acres to KUTRRH to operate as an independent entity from the university. Also to benefit from the allocation is the World Health Organisation and the ACDC.

“Kenyatta university has been experiencing financial challenges partly because of huge bank loans that are traced to the regime of the immediate predecessor of Prof Paul Wainaina. We are convinced that once the loans are repaid, the proposed developments will kick off. We therefore dispute the allegation that the land was not being utilised,” reads the letter.

Before the appointment of Prof Wainaina, the university was headed by Prof Olive Mugenda. She is now the chair of the KUTRRH board.

“There was a 19-year dispute involving KU and Kamae residents which was determined in favour of KU vide judgement dated September 23 2021 and eviction order issued against the trespassers,” they said.

The dons said that currently, a majority of the students have to search for accommodation off campus and, therefore, the plan to put up students hostels should not be curtailed.

The university also hosts Kenyatta University Primary School, a public school, which does not have a separate title deed from the university. The United Nations Women and Young African Leadership Institute is also based at KU.

A week ago, KU students also wrote to the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning objecting the transfer of the university’s land. The Kenyatta University Student Association (KUSA) leadership, in a press statement, said KU land is not idle as it was set aside for education purposes and therefore should be protected.

“The Kenyatta University master plan demonstrates how the university land is intended to be utilised. This encroachment of the university land threatens the advancement of education for us, the current students and future generations of Kenyan youth,” wrote the students.

The students observed that despite the matter still pending in court, plans to subdivide the land have began.

“The unlawful appropriation of part of Kenyatta University’s LR NO. 11026/2 is a naked violation of the Constitution and the Land Act,” they said.

The students body said there was no public participation before a decision to take the land from the university was reached.

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