For twelve years, Peter Ndirangu Kinuthia lived in a rented iron sheet structure with his twelve children, after being evicted from his land by his sister-in-law.
Ndirangu remembers the fateful day in August 2001 with pain, his face turning gloomy and voice shaking as though he was reliving the painful experience.
“I had just returned from the district lands office in a bid to solve the problem when I found police officers stationed at each corner of my compound.
Within no time, my sister-in-law arrived with hired goons who descended on my three houses, flattening them.
I could do nothing and just broke down crying,” said the 67-year-old.
The pain of watching his five-bedroom house being flattened and his property looted was too much to bear; he summoned his family and looked for a cheap rental house at Gitaru market, on the outskirts of Nairobi.
“I could not dare go near the main house when it was being brought down.
They did not even give me a chance to go for my clothes, I had nothing apart from the clothes I was wearing that day,” said Ndirangu.
What followed the eviction was a bruising 12-year court battle, which took the intervention of Chief Justice Willy Mutunga, and the concerted efforts of a law firm, Iseme Kamau & Maema Advocates, who agreed to assist him without charging any legal fees after being moved by his predicament.
The dispute over the one-acre land at Muguga, near Nairobi, came to an end last month when Mr Justice Hatari Waweru ruled in Ndirangu’s favour, and ordered that the land he inherited from his father be returned to him.
Mr Kamau Karori, who represented Ndirangu in the case, said he is now in the process of extracting the decrees of the court order, to enable the old man settle back in his land.
According to the lawyer, it was unfortunate that the case took that long to be determined and blamed the old judiciary for the strange twists that characterized the hearing, which went through four different judges.
“The worst of those twists occurred when the matter was being handled by Mr Justice Daniel Aganyanya, who in 2010 declined to read a judgment on grounds that one of the parties tried to bribe him.
It was the most unfair direction given the injustice I had suffered,” said Ndirangu.
According to the judge, he explained, a person convinced security guards at the High Court to allow him see the judge Aganyanya, claiming that he was his (judge’s) personal doctor.
It, however, turned out the person had the intention of bribing the judge.
Mr Karori added that the judge declined to disclose the person or which side he wanted him to rule in favour of, and that it was regrettable the judge did not order for the arrest.
Ndirangu said the dispute arose after his father, Amos Kinuthia, subdivided the family land into three equal portions amongst his three children; himself, Geoffrey Ndung’u and James Karanja—who passed on and the portion given to his wife Mary Njoki Karanja.
During the expansion of the Nairobi-Nakuru Highway, the government acquired the entire portion belonging to Ndung’u and part of Ndirangu’s portion.
Ndirangu went ahead to develop the remaining quarter acre of his portion and built the five-bedroom house.
However, his sister-in-law, Mary Njoki Karanja, claimed that the entire portion of Ndirangu’s land had been taken by the government, and that the remaining piece was part of her land.
In August 2001, Njoki through the help of officers from Kikuyu Police Station evicted Ndirangu and his family from the disputed portion of land.
In his ruling, Justice Waweru said he was satisfied Ndirangu’s land was not entirely taken for the expansion of the highway, and that although the land borders that of Njoki, it was separately registered.
According to the judge, it was unthinkable that Ndirangu was evicted from his own piece of land and that it was actually his sister-in-law who trespassed.
He ordered Njoki’s children to pay Ndirangu Sh800,000 for general damages due to the pain and injustice he suffered and to vacate the land within 14 days.
Mr Karori said that the family of Njoki has no option but to vacate the land and in the event they refuse; there will be consequences as ruled by Justice Waweru.
“Although the case took long, we are happy it finally came to an end.
My intention was not financial gain, but to regain my land.
It is a case that should have not taken this long and it’s a lesson for the judiciary to seriously consider the consequences of the directions it gives,” said Ndirangu