More than 3,000 squatters belonging to Nayeni Mibuyuni Squatters Association suffered a major setback after a Malindi court ruled they had no legal claim to the land they occupy.
Tuesday’s ruling reversed a declaration by the National Land Commission (NLC) on September 18 that the squatters were the rightful owners of the land.
More than 46 land owners had moved to court to demand the eviction of the squatters on the 230 acres in Kilifi North Sub County.
Environment and Lands court judge, James Olola, ruled that the plaintiffs: Cumpus City Limited, David Slatter, Chris Gontier, Anthony Hewitt Stubbs and 45 others legally acquired the suit property.
Justice Olola, however, declined to award the plaintiffs Ksh. 14,344,995 in damages for trespass and destruction of property and ordered them to pay the cost of the suit.
“They failed to prove that the people in the photos destroying the wall were those before court,” he ruled.
Olola clarified that the court had granted ownership to only 26 of the 49 plaintiffs in the suit and for only 30 out of the 230 acres at the centre of the dispute.
“The (other) plaintiffs are 45 in number but only 22 gave authority to Stubbs to swear affidavits on their behalf,” said Olola.
The respondents: Gabriel Baraka Thoya, John Mataza, Joel Kazungu Yaa Mangi and Nayeni Mibuyuni Squatters Association had denied destroying property and urged the court to dismiss the suit.
The respondents informed the court that they had acquired legal rights over the land as they had lived on the suit property since 1800s and that the land ownership documents held by the plaintiffs were fraudulently acquired.
However, the court ruled that the squatters did not proof that they owned the suit property.
“While the defendants claim to have been entitled to the land having lived on the same from 1800s, they did not produce anything before court to demonstrate how they acquired it,” said the judge.
He noted that the squatters had cited the history of the ten-mile coastal strip, and that before the enactment of the land ordinance of 1908 there were no laws governing land use, acquisition, and occupation at the coast.
Olola stated that Section 15 of the land title ordinance act required that all persons who claimed interest in land along the coastal strip lodge their claims with the recorder of titles; and that where the recorder of titles was satisfied that a claim was valid, a certificate of ownership be issued.
“Otherwise, section 17 of the land title act (as now repealed) provided that all land situated in an area to which the act applies in which no claim for a certificate of ownership has been made shall be deemed as government land,” he said.
The squatters through their lawyer, Steve Obaga,have vowed to appeal the court’s decision.
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