Meru court dismisses land petition by Mau Mau descendants

Land court says petition based on generalised allegations, lacked specifics

In Summary
  • Petitioners said they were driven off 600,000 acres by settlers aided by the colonial government. Land now cultivated by large commercial farmers.
  • They said they were glad they received a hearing and would pursue ownership and compensation with fresh documents and evidence.
Meru Cultural Centre chairman Robert Kinyua addresses journalists after the ruling
Meru Cultural Centre chairman Robert Kinyua addresses journalists after the ruling
Image: Dickson Mwiti

Hundreds of Mau Mau descendants have suffered a blow after the Environment Court dismissed their petition claiming ownership of 600,000 acres occupied by commercial farmers.

They said, however, they would keep trying to prove ownership of the land in Meru and seek compensation. A few living veterans were among them.

The petitioners, represented by the Meru Cultural Centre, argued they were driven out of the vast land in Buuri subcounty by people aided by the colonial government.

Not only were they disposed, but they also were subjected to brutality and their basic rights and freedoms were violated, the petitioners argued. They said they were exploited and their land was stolen, leaving them desperate and dispossessed.

Judge Charles Yano, however, dismissed the petition after he found it defective, saying the allegations were not supported by substantive evidence. He agreed his court has jurisdiction in the matter.

The petitioners are left with the burden of proving ownership of the land, a difficult task, and filing a fresh petition to compel the current occupiers of the land to vacate. Otherwise, they want compensation for the valuable land.

The respondents included the management of the large farms, the Agricultural Finance Corporation, the National Land Commission, The Settlement Funds Trust and the Attorney General.

The petitioners want the respondents prosecuted for cruelty against the Meru Tribe and compensation for loss of commercial properties.

However, judge Yano said the petitioners had not stated how the respondents had violated the stated articles in law.

He said the petitioners’ plea was based on “generalised allegations” about forced displacement from their land.

“The petitioners have not provided particulars of the allegations of organised cruel and forcible detainment, nor have they disclosed the manner in which their constitutional rights have been violated in this regard,” Yano said.

He said the petitioners did not present any documentation of the properties mentioned in the petition and to whom they belonged, which of the petitioners were dispossessed, by whom, and in what manner.

Speaking after the ruling, Robert Kinyua, the Cultural Centre chairman, said they were glad they had received a hearing.

He said they will pursue their cause and seek fresh documentation to enable them to file a new petition to regain ownership of the land.

He said after their displacement, the present occupiers of the land had farmed it since 1919 and continue to do so, yet the real owners were living as squatters while others were in slums.

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