Not many Mau Mau veterans thought of pursuing land they lost during Kenya’s state of emergency when the colonial government forcibly confiscated their properties.
However, as Kenyans celebrates 52 years since attaining independence, today the family of a one-time confidant of the late President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta has decided to revive an old case in which their grandfather, the late Kirori Motoku lost a 43-acre piece of land at Ruring’u in Nyeri.
It was in 1955 when the British effected the Native Land Rights Confiscation Order, an emergency regulation.
The order required Mau Mau fighters in the forest, and who were perceived as fighting against forces of law and order, to surrender. Those who did not surrender had their land confiscated. The land would then be given to loyalists or held by the government during the land consolidation.
The late Motoku’s family says the freedom fighter was not being sought at the time — he was in detention when the order was affected.
He lost several other parcels of land. However, his family is interested in the land in Ruring’u. The property was given to the defunct Nyeri County Council.
The rest of the land in Mathira, Othaya and Mukurwe-ini sub-counties, the family says, was taken as there was no relative around to identify it during the land consolidation.
After acquiring the land, Nyeri County Council subdivided it into plots which they leased to individuals who have since developed them. A portion of the land houses the Nyeri County Assembly.
“Kirori Motoku’s lands should not have been confiscated because he was in detention and the fact is known,” Mr Daniel Motoku and Mr Francis Kamau, sons of the former freedom fighter, say in a sworn affidavit.
The affidavit is authorising their two children Hilary Kirori and Paul Karanja to pursue the matter on behalf of the family.
A previous attempt to follow the case in court did not bear fruits.
“We first approached the office of Nyeri Governor and they referred us to the Devolution Ministry,” Mr Karanja, who visited Nation Centre, said.
A letter from the Ministry has advised the family to seek help from Lands ministry.
Mr Karanja said they are awaiting communication from the ministry before they decide the next course of action.
“We may end up filing the case in court afresh,” he said.
They want the government compensate the family or give it an alternative land.
Motoku died in the early 1990’s. He co-founded Kenya African Union (KAU) with Mzee Jomo Kenyatta in 1947. The party was later transformed to Kanu, the country’s independence party, which was formed at the late Motoku’s resident in Ruringu.
A declassified intelligence briefing on Mr Motoku dated June 26, 1957 at Manyani detention camp says in part: “Following a large meeting of KAU adherents at the showground, Nyeri, in September, 1947, a meeting was held in Kirori’s (Mr Motoku) house at which, amongst others, the following persons were present: Jomo Kenyatta (KAU president), Jesse Kariuki (Vice President) and Anderson Wamuthenya (Chairman, Nyeri Branch).”
The briefing says an oath was administered by Kenyatta and Kariuki, which took the form of the traditional Mau Mau oath.