The family of freedom fighter Dedan Kimathi has been caught up in a push-and-pull with Mau Mau war veterans over a controversial land-buying scheme worth Sh2.3 billion.
More than six years after the Dedan Kimathi Foundation launched a programme to resettle Mau Mau veterans and their descendants, they are under pressure to account for hundreds of millions of shillings collected and to transfer the land to the veterans or their descendants.
DKF is run by Ms Evelyn Wanjugu, the daughter of Kimathi’s widow, Mukami Kimathi.
Ms Wanjugu claims she plans to raise Sh2.3 billion in a bid to resettle more than 35,000 Mau Mau veterans and their descendants on a 12,000-acre piece of land in Rumuruti, Laikipia County.
In 2017, Mathira/ Kihindwi/Gitaraga/ Kahonoki Farmers Association agreed to sell 12,842 acres of land in Thoome, Rumuruti, Laikipia County to DKF.
The association, which comprises more than 3,000 members, and DKF entered an agreement to purchase the land at Sh180,000 per acre.
To finance the purchase, any interested veteran was to pay a Sh3,000 registration fee and a further Sh5,000 for shares.
The Sh8,000 were to give each veteran three-and-a-half acres once the purchase was finalised.
Additionally, they were required to pay a Sh200 standard monthly fee. The foundation promised to top up the rest to make up Sh2.3 billion through state and donor funding.
The deal sounded good to thousands of veterans, many of who had lost patience waiting for the government to help them acquire land.
Ms Virginia Wanjiku, 105, is one of the veterans who signed up for the land scheme hopeful that she would finally get some land which has long eluded her.
Today, the veteran, who was a scout during the Mau Mau war, feels betrayed both by the country she fought for and those she fought alongside.
She especially feels let down by the Kimathi kin whom she says took money from her and has not yet fulfilled her promise to her.
“If I knew then, I would have bought a piece of land with the money I paid. I have lost count of the number of times we have been promised we will be given land,” Ms Wanjiku told the Saturday Nation.
Ms Wanjiku has paid more than Sh20,000 for two shares under the DKF scheme and was momentarily allocated a plot in Rumuruti but was shortly evicted under unclear circumstances.
She said that in 2021 officials from DKF took her to Rumuruti supposedly to identify her piece of land.
“They showed me a quarter acre piece of land in Rumuruti and gave me a certificate, promising we would get title deeds later. They took photos of me at the plot holding certificates. I was later told that the plot I had been allocated belonged to someone else,” she said.
A few days later, she was informed that another piece had been found and allocated to her. This time, she decided to put it to use immediately by cultivating it.
“I hired a tractor and started ploughing. But as soon as the ploughing was done, I was told again that the land belonged to someone else,” she said.
During that time, DKF had announced that some members had begun settling on the land after making payments.
It later emerged that the land was not part of the parcel DKF was purchasing from Mathira/ Kihindwi/Gitaraga/ Kahonoki Farmers Association.
The land owners’ lawyer Nelson Ashitiva confirmed to the Saturday Nation that they had not given consent for any of the Mau Mau veterans to cultivate or settle on the land.
“We have not authorised anyone to settle on the land because the moment you do something like that it makes the terms of sale blurry,” Mr Ashitiva said.
According to Ms Wanjiku’s son, Francis Mwai, DKF did not give an explanation as to why his mother was evicted from the land. Instead, he says the organization has been asking for more money, as recently as two weeks ago.
“We still do not know what has been going on but they are asking for more money. Recently they called me and said we should pay an additional Sh50,000 yet there is no proof of land,” Mr Mwai said.
The Saturday Nation has since learnt that DKF has been collecting an additional Sh50,000 from the veterans in a move that will see them about Sh1.75 billion should the over 35,000 members pay.
However, they are yet to account for the original Sh303 million they had raised as of 2020.
Ms Wanjugu admitted to asking would-be beneficiaries to pay an additional Sh50,000 saying it was to facilitate the processing of title deeds.
“The money is meant to process individual title deeds,” she said.
Inclusive of the initial Sh8,000 collected for registration and shares, DKF was set to collect Sh2 billion if the original 35,000 members made the payment.
However, none of the would-be beneficiaries have received title deeds or any form of documentation to claim ownership of parcels of land allegedly allocated to them.
In fact, DKF has been unable to pay Mathira/ Kihindwi/Gitaraga/ Kahonoki Farmers Association the agreed amount for the land, a move which could see the land go to someone else.
According to the land owners' legal representative, Nelson Ashitiva, DKF has so far paid only Sh94 million to the association, which is four per cent of the agreed fee.
The Nation is also aware of a clause in the land agreement that would see DKF forfeit the already paid amount should they fail to make full payments by the end of 2020.
Mr Ashitiva, however, said the land owners are lenient on effecting the clause and would be willing to negotiate a cash refund or handing over land equivalent to the amount.
“We are negotiating with DKF on how to handle the situation. We could refund the money or carve out land equivalent to the amount; which is about 400 acres,” Mr Ashitiva told the Saturday Nation.
And in an interesting turn of events, Sh96 million paid out to Mathira/ Kihindwi/Gitaraga/ Kahonoki Farmers Association cannot be fully accounted for.
Correspondence seen by the Saturday Nation has revealed internal wrangles in the farmers’ association which resulted in the collapse of the sale of the Sh2.3 billion land to DKF.
It has emerged that a section of the association that owns the land was against the sale of the land. The lawyer had reportedly been instructed to hive off land equivalent to the amount already paid but is yet to do so and neither has he refunded the money.
Meanwhile, Mr Ashitiva says that another buyer has been identified and is willing to purchase the land, which will see DKF and Mau Mau veterans miss out on the land.
After failing to finalise the Sh2.3 billion purchase of land in Rumuruti, Laikipia County, the foundation claims it has started acquiring alternative land from other sellers to resettle the freedom fighters.
“I have been buying land from different vendors. We realised that the veterans and their descendants could not wait so we opted to buy land elsewhere,” she said.
Nonetheless, DKF has continued to register new members, after shifting operations from KCS House in Nairobi to Trans Nation along Mama Ngina Street.
The organization has interestingly morphed and refocused its core role from the resettlement of Mau Mau veterans to an environmental organization focusing mainly on tree planting.