A court has directed one of Deputy President William Ruto’s 11 co-defendants in a land grabbing case to file a defence within 15 days so that the hearing can commence.
The Environment and Lands Court in Eldoret has directed Mr Eliud Kipyego Chepkwony to file his defence to the suit filed by the anti-corruption watchdog 14 years ago seeking to recover land and houses.
The suit was lodged by the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC), the predecessor of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC).
DP Ruto’s co-accused are Magut Agencies Ltd, Somog Limited, former Commissioner of Lands Wilson Gachanja, Eliud Kipyego Chepkwony, Ann Chepsiror, Hosea Kibet Ruto, David Kiptanui Koross and Kensten Limited.
According to an EACC advert published by Daily Nation on Wednesday, the case will be mentioned on September 28.
“You are required to file a defence in the said suit within 15 days of this advertisement and if you fail to do so, proceedings in the suit can, and will, be taken in your absence notwithstanding,” it reads.
Interested parties are Uasin Gishu land registrar, the chief land registrar and the county government of Uasin Gishu.
Last November, the court quashed a decision by the National Land Commission (NLC) to clear allocation of prime plots in Eldoret to the accused. The suit, a consolidation of 16 cases, centres around parcels of land LR No Eldoret Municipality Block 8/574–588 and Block 8/540 that were subdivided from LR No. Eldoret Municipality, Block 8/83.
Magut Agencies Ltd, through its director Josiah Kiprotich Magut, on October 7, 2020, filed an application seeking to have the court adopt a 2018 decision by the NLC, which purported to permit the allocation to DP Ruto and others. “The National Land Commission has already made a determination dated April 20, 2018, that has fully resolved the issues raised in the plaintiff’s suit,” Mr Magut told the court then.
However, the EACC opposed the application and told the court that the decision by the NLC was made on April 20, 2018, nearly a year after the term of the first land commission had elapsed.
The EACC further argued that there was no order referring the dispute to the NLC and the land commission did not have any power to determine issues relating to the validity of the titles.
The NLC had found that neither the EACC nor the Uasin Gishu government adduced evidence to prove that Magut Agencies, Dr Ruto and others obtained their titles fraudulently, illegally, unprocedurally or corruptly, as required under the law.
The commission, then under the chairmanship of Prof Mohamed Swazuri, observed that all the procedures for the allocation of public land were followed, including obtaining the consent of the Local Government ministry. In the determination, the commission also took notice of a case where a title held by proprietors of one of the plots, Ravji Devji Vekaria and Lilji Shivji Kerai, which was excised from the same land, was found to be legitimate and legal by court in 2007.
“The commission is curious as to why the EACC and the County Government have resorted to administer selective justice which could easily be discerned as being discriminatory. However, this likely indication of abuse of powers is better judged in another forum,” stated the NLC.
But Justice Stephen Kibunja, in his decision, said there was no directive referring the dispute to the NLC for review or arbitration.
“I have taken time to peruse court records, especially the typed proceedings running from April 23, 2008, to May 19, 2020, and I have not seen any order or direction issued by the court referring the dispute in this suit to the commission for review or arbitration,” Justice Kibunja said.
Justice Kibunja held that the NLC decision to hear the case without a verifiable court order violated the provision of the Civil Procedure Act. “The commission had no powers to oust the jurisdiction of this court that are derived from Article 162(2) (b) of the Constitution and Section 13 of the Environment and Land Court Act No. 19 of 2011,” he said.
He further noted that the NLC’s powers to review grants or disposition of public land to establish legality had expired by the time the decision was made. “The said report, having been made by the commission without jurisdiction, is null and void, and hence a nullity ab initio (to be treated as invalid from the outset).”
When unmasking DP Ruto’s worth last year, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i listed the land under dispute as one that is guarded by the police.