The state must not be compelled to pay any compensation to a foreign investor on land that is being occupied by Kajiado residents.
In a blow by blow affidavit at the Environment and Land Court in Narok on Tuesday, Governor Joseph Ole Lenku said the people of Magadi deserve to live in their forefathers’ land in peace and averred that Nguruman Ltd has no case against the State.
Justice Mohammed Kullow presided over the case. The state was represented by deputy state counsel Oscar Eredi.
Nguruman Company Ltd was represented by lawyer Ahmednassir Abdullahi.
In 2014, the company sued the state and Lenku, then the Interior Cabinet Secretary, accusing him of facilitating the community’s invasion into the Nguruman land measuring more than 65,000 acres.
The company petitioned the court to compel the state to compensate them for Sh50 billion for losses they allegedly suffered when the community occupied the land.
In cross-examination by the petitioner’s lawyer Abdullahi, Lenku emphatically stated that the land in Nguruman, Shompole and Olkiramatian group ranches belonged to the local people and they must not be disinherited.
In his further submission, the governor asserted that while he was Interior Cabinet Secretary in 2014, he accepted a request by local elected leaders to hold a meeting in his office to discuss how the emerging land conflict between Nguruman Ltd and the local community could be resolved to avert a disruption of peace.
He explained that the Harambee House meeting did not discuss the destruction of property, neither did it make a resolution to have the community invade the private land.
During the court session, the governor was flanked by the chairman of Shompole group ranch Joel Karori and community leader John Kamanga.
In papers filed in court, Nguruman Ltd accused the then CS of having protected the elected leaders who had invaded the petitioner’s land a week after the leaders meeting.
The genesis of court battles
Rising from the arid and salty wastes of Lake Magadi as the Rift Valley heads south is the Nguruman escarpments.
To the south-west of this famous escarpment is the Lake Natron across the Kenyan border, which is home to millions of flamingoes.
Flamingoes lay eggs and hatch here every season of the year after flying in from many parts part of East and Central Africa.
At the northern edge of Nguruman, are the Serengeti plains from a height of 2,000 metres.
In 1986, a South African investor, Hermanus Phillipus Steyn, along with 14 officials of Narok and Olkejuado county councils obtained the land title deed to a small ranch (67,000 acres) known as Narok/Nguruman/Kamorora/1, on which the lodge sits.
The owners of the above land later changed it to Nguruman Ltd.
In November 2014, a group of morans invaded the lodge and vandalised property forcing the owners to move from the site because of their security.
According to the local people, Kamorora group ranch was illegally registered by the 14 individuals along with Steyn.
Later on, and over the next few years, Steyn quietly bought out his co-directors in Nguruman Ltd.
As a sole proprietor, he was able to dictate terms, preventing the surrounding communities from accessing the escarpment. At the lodge on the escapement, visits were by invitation.
Bill Gates, when he visited Kenya, was hosted at the lodge; Kofi Annan stayed there while mediating the Kenya crisis in 2008; and Kenya’s former Prime Minister, Raila Odinga is on record as having used it as a retreat.
In the shadow of the Nguruman lies a darker reality: the dispossession of a Maasai community to secure the paradise.
The Olkiramatian Group Ranch, a community of about 8,000 people, faced eviction around November 2014 following a legal battle with Nguruman Ltd, the company that owned the escarpment property.
In 1996, during a severe drought, the community’s herders took their livestock up the escarpment.
The northern edge of the escarpment has traditionally been used for dry season grazing by the community.
On that occasion, however, they found their access paths blocked.
A few days later, they received a court writ accusing them of trespass and charging them with the destruction of grassland valued at almost Ksh 20 million.
The owners of the property secretly went to court without alerting the accused of the intention to take legal action on the alleged trespass.