Former Kwanza MP Noah Wekesa and General (Rtd) Daudi Tonje are among 424 individuals and organizations including government institutions, corporations and children’s homes accused of illegally acquiring 2321.09 acres of Kenyan Prison Service land in Kitale and in to have penetrated this.
The questionable acquisition of the property LR no. Kapkoi/Mabonde Bock 1/EX-prison- (LR2197/2/2) jeopardizes the integrity, the possession and the security of the historical assets of the Foreign Office Shillings 2.47 billion.
Documents presented to Parliament show the public land was illegally acquired over 30 years ago and was flagged by Comptroller Nancy Gathungu in the Foreign Office’s audited financial statements for Correctional Services for 2020 /21.
Others listed as beneficiaries of the land include Nathaniel Tum, former CEO of Kenya Seed Company (KSC), with at least 80 acres, former nominee MP Mark Too with 70 acres and former Rift Valley Provincial Commissioner Ishmael Che lang’a 10 acres. Mr Tum and Mr Too have died.
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Safina Kwekwe, chief secretary of the Correctional Service, appears before the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), said , the individuals and organizations have divided up the land and received titles, but their department’s efforts to reclaim it have been hampered by numerous court cases.
A Mr. Gordon Kihalangwa also appears on the list of acquirers of the public lands (27 acres), but Ms. Kwekwe wasn’t sure if it’s her colleague – Energy Secretary Gordon Kihalangwa.
At one point, the PS told PAC, a House Oversight Committee chaired by Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi, that a circular from the Ministry of the Interior prevented the department from evicting the people. This came after Mr. Wandayi wanted to know what was preventing her department from evicting those who settled in the countryside.
“The acquisition of the land was carried out without any due process. We are mandating the National Land Commission so that if it needs to be reclaimed, it must be in accordance with the law,” Ms. Kwekwe said.
She was accompanied by Commissioner General of the Kenya Prisons Service, John Warioba.
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The documents presented to Parliament contain the details of the person encroaching on the land and includes their farm names, property names, and acreage. For example, the document shows that Mr. Wekesa 10 acres, Mr. Tonje 50 acres, Julius Mutua Kilaka 32 acres, Little Sisters of Saint Francis Assisi 14 acres, John Serem Chumo 15 acres, Soet Kenya Limited 10 acres, Public Works 8 acres, and Christopher Kuto 14 Acres.
The PS revealed to the committee that as far as it can remember the country was never degazted as prison country or compulsorily acquired by the government for other legally required purposes. The sacking of public lands is a process. First, a notice is issued through an advertisement in the media to allow people to apply and bid. Those who qualify will then be notified.
Ms. Kwekwe also said the department is in the process of documenting and assessing the country.
Prisons are some of the protected facilities in the Land – manned 24 hours a day by security guards. How the individuals and corporations acquired the land and had their title deeds processed without government assistance confused even MPs.
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“The Interior Ministry circular warned us that we should not evict anyone from government land until we receive explicit instructions from the ministry,” she even said to Mr. Wandayi demanded that those he called sacred cows leave immediately.
“The Interior Ministry circular cannot overrule the law. The law cannot give these people room for even a minute to stay longer in the countryside,” Mr Wandayi said. “The committee therefore directs you to take all lawful action to promptly vacate the country by these illegal squatters. It shouldn’t take more than a month to complete this mission.”
This came as the committee invited National Land Commission (NLC) Chairman Gerishom Ottachi to “shed some light on this matter bring”. State Department records show that Legal Notice No. 359 of 1943 and Legal Notice No. 721 of 1961 established Kitale Main Prison and Kitale Medium Prison on an area of approximately 3,000 and 159.01 acres, respectively.
However, an October 2021 field inspection by officers from the Office of the Auditor-General at both prisons found that about 2,321.09 acres of the farmland of Kitale main prison had been “alienated and reallocated to private individuals, including senior government officials”. >
The auditors noted that NLC, at the request of the State Department, by letter dated September 13, 2018, confirmed that Gazette Notice #359 declared the property prison land effective April 1, 1943. “The illegal alienation of prison property was the subject of litigation,” reads the audit report.
At the time of the audit, the Department of Correctional Services had not provided a detailed listing of the disputed property.
Ms Kwekwe told PAC that the ownership of the two Kitale prison plots of land was the subject of a court case between Kitale prison and other land parties. Prisons may not be able to perform their correctional functions effectively due to interference,” the PS says.
It also informed the committee that the prison service has partnered with NLC and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission be conquer “the stolen land and the cases run”.