IMPUNITY

How politically connected individuals grabbed Ngong Forest

A former Commissioner of Lands issued freehold title August 21, 1996, grant number I.R 70244.

In Summary

• Kenya Forest Service Chief Conservator for Forests Julius Kamau says forestland is public land that has never been available for allocation.

• In an exclusive interview with the Star, he said KFS will embark on reclaiming grabbed forestland.

A view of the Ngong Hills Forest
A view of the Ngong Hills Forest
Image: COURTESY

Documents in possession of the Star show how influential and politically connected individuals benefited from illegal hiving of Ngong Road Forest.

In 1978, the forest-covered approximately 3,282.04861 acres ( 1328.2 hectares).

However, between 1992 and 1995, massive swathes of the forest were acquired irregularly.

 

The plot saw 838.6 acres ( 339.4 hectares) end up in the hands of private developers. This is despite the fact that the forest was gazetted as a reserve through proclamation No. 44 of April 30, 1932.

The forest is only six kilometres from Nairobi’s central business district. The remarkable water tower plays a unique role in Kenya’s well being. Its protection is crucial.

Kenya Forest Service Chief Conservator for Forests Julius Kamau has, however, said forestland is public land that has never been available for allocation.

Kamau, in an exclusive interview with the Star, said  KFS will embark on reclaiming forestland.

“Forest resources are on land and historically, KFS land has faced consistent pressure.  We have had areas that have been irregularly excised and the commitment for KFS is that it won’t look and watch as it loses forestland,”Kamau said.

He cited Mau, Cherangani, especially the Embobut area, Makunga in Mt Elgon and Ndarakwa as some of the forests that have been encroached in the recent past.

The Ndung’u Land Report lifted a lid on the massive grabbing of illegal titles inside such lands. Also, a task force that had been formed in March last year found out that KFS management and the board should be held to account for the depletion of forest cover in the country.

 

The team headed by the Green Belt Movement chairperson Marion Wakanyi noted that KFS is marred by corruption and incompetence. The task force was formed in March to help the country restore its depleted forest cover.

For instance, a former Commissioner of Lands issued freehold title August 21, 1996, grant number I.R 70244. The grant was issued for the portion of land registered as L.R No. 4422 measuring approximately 2,443.4 acres.

This left out 838.6 acres outside the title, which had been allocated at the peak of the irregular excising.

In the attempt to legalise the granting of 838.6 acres of the forest, a boundary plan No. 175/356 of 1996 was drawn by the Lands ministry. The calculated move left 838.6 acres of the gazetted forest bordering affluent Karen area, the ASK showground and Dog Section areas.

The Kenya Forestry Service officers patrol part of the Ngong Forest.
The Kenya Forestry Service officers patrol part of the Ngong Forest.
Image: FILE

The boundary plan was drawn to back up the remaining gazetted forest. However, little did the amending parties know that a portion of gazetted forest can only cease to be part of gazetted forest after it has been degazetted.

Similarly, they failed to appreciate the fact that Ngong Road Forest is a public land categorised as special lands and land territories.

Given their ecological integrity, cultural relevance and strategic location, such lands were not available for allocation to private individuals and companies.

Documents show that the 838.6 acres of Ngong Road Forest have not been removed from the Forest Act. The Act is used to manage forests in the country. This means the hiving off of the land remains an illegality.

In the Dog Section at Langata Road, three portions of forest measuring 37.3 acres,13.1 and 21.7 acres have been developed.

BENEFICIARIES

Interestingly, beneficiaries who have since developed the grabbed land include Saint Mary’s Hospital, Kenya Resuscitation Housing Complex and residential buildings that have been sold to innocent and unsuspecting Kenyans.

Some residential flats spread all the way to the Dog Section. Among those who have bought them work in government, while others work in the National Assembly.

Documents in our possession show 37.3 acres were initially allocated to a former Commissioner of Prisons.

This was done after it was surveyed and registered as L.R No 12668 and boundary plan authenticated by the director of surveys.

However, it was subdivided in the 1990s and allocated to influential people.

Aware that the parcel was irregularly acquired, it was disposed to other parties.

Just at the border of Langata Prison, 21.7 acres had been set aside for the expansion of the correctional facility.

Three-quarters of the portion was, however, allocated to private developers that included a former MP.

This left the prison will only a quarter of the land.

It remains unclear why the Commissioner of Prisons gave out land to private developers. Another area measuring eight acres on the Southern part of the Dog Section and bordering Southern bypass was initially allocated to a Commissioner of Police.

The parcel was later amalgamated with adjoining forestland to constitute a portion measuring 13.1 acres. The eight acres were initially intended for police occupation in 2002. The allotment was, however, cancelled in May 2002 after KFS raised some reservations.

However, the amalgamated portion of 13.1 acres was allocated to private developers under unclear circumstances. Immediately it landed in the hands private developers, it was subdivided into LR No. 25421 and 25448. KFS ordered developers to halt development. The developers, however, moved to court to challenge quit notice.

Using a legal notice of another land that had been excised in 1998, the developers won the case. KFS, through a letter, urged the Attorney General office to appeal at the High Court, which hasn’t been done to date.

“Thus in Ngong Road Forest, in the Dog Section area, approximately 72.2 acres are illegally occupied,” the documents show.

Further, an attempt to degazette 202.6 acres of the forest through legal notice No. 79 of 1997 had been made. However, the minister’s mandatory gazette notice giving 28 days notice to the public of the intention to alter forest boundaries was not published.

Even though the attempt to have off the portion of land was reported to the Criminal Investigations Department, now DCI, in the late 1990s, no action has been taken so far. On November 1, 1999, a portion comprised of LR No. 24582 and 25808 measuring approximately 1,453 acres was created after surrender of freehold title No LR 70244.

This paved way for the processing of leasehold title grant number LR 81938 of LR 24582 issued in the name of Treasury Principal Secretary as trustee to hold for the Ministry of Environment. The portion is now managed by Ngong Road Forest Sanctuary Trust.

In 2003, another portion known as LR No. 25808 measuring approximately 50 hectares was added to the sanctuary. KFS now plans to repossess the land and stop encroachment.

The beneficiaries of the illegally hived off land include learning institutions, churches, cemeteries and state institutions.

One private developer got 15 acres and later transferred it to a church. A portion of the parcel is developed, but a title deed for some section was surrendered.


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