Sh8 billion Karen land ownership tussle not new in the courts

The ongoing tussle over the ownership of the controversial 134 acres of prime Karen land is not new in the courts. The land, estimated to be worth about Sh8 billion, returns to the courts nearly 12 years after it was subject to other cases, which ended up at the Court of Appeal, then the highest court in the country, in 2002.

In 1983, the land was valued at Sh1.2 million and in 1998, the figure rose to Sh400 million and shot up to the current Sh8 billion. Once again, it appears lawyer and businessman Horatius Da Gama Rose, a Muchanga Investments Limited director, who in 2002 succeeded in his pursuit to reclaim the land ownership, will put another spirited legal battle to regain the property. Da Gama had won a case against Mr Antony Howard Victor Church, the Safari Unlimited (Africa) Ltd director, who had lived in the property for 45 years, and claimed ownership on adverse possession grounds, normally claimed by squatters.

The disputed land issue has been handled by five judges; three Appeal Court judges and two in the High Court and top lawyers, Stephen Mwenesi and Fred Ngatia. In 2002, Civil Appeal 25 of 2002 was determined by justices Joseph Nyamu, Samuel Bosire and Onyango Otieno, having emanated from a ruling by High Court judge John Khamoni on March 2, 1999.

Justice Msagha Mbogholi has also handled a dispute over the same property, though in a different suit. The current dispute is before Justice Nyambura Gacheru with lawyer Cecil Miller appearing for Muchanga. The earlier case was filed at Environmental and Land court Case 293 of 2009 between Safaris Unlimited (Africa) Limited versus Muchanga. The case is currently in the same court, pitting Muchanga against, Jina Enterprises, Habenga Limited, Director of Physical Planning, Director of Survey, Chief Lands Registrar and a Mr John Kamau Mugo, who has been enjoined. Muchanga, through its lawyer, Ngatia, had moved to the Court of Appeal when the High Court refused to strike out an Originating Summons dated January 29, 1998 which sought the extension of a caveat registered against the property LR 5386/3.