Kiambu land returned to widow

Land governance problems remain one of the most complained issues to the Commission. One such matter was concluded in September 2019 in a case that saw property worth about Sh100 million that was fraudulently transferred reverted to the owner.

This is the story of Cecilia Mbugua, a widow from Kiambu. Her story depicts the journey of twists and turns that land owners travel in a bid to secure their property.

Ms Mbugua had written to the County Government of Kiambu in 2013 seeking approval to develop two plots within Thika Municipality. The general elections had been held that same year, ushering in the devolved government. Now, one of the objects of the devolved government is to promote social and economic development and the provision of proximate, easily accessible services throughout Kenya. However, what followed in the case of Ms Mbugua is not only ironic but also a negation of this very object.

The approval was granted, and then revoked. The reversal, the county government told her, was because the land belonged to Jua Kali Association. Ms Mbugua moved to court to challenge the decision and the court ruled in her favour. The court directed the county government to approve the development plan for the properties.

But in yet another attempt to frustrate her, the county government forwarded the matter National Land Commission (NLC) for investigations soon after the appeal period for the ruling had expired. The property was listed in a gazette notice by NLC stating the interested party as the County Government of Kiambu. The county government later recalled the case claiming that they did not have any issue with the property.

Meanwhile, Ms Mbugua received a telephone call from the governor’s office informing her that the governor wanted to see her in respect to the planned development. A meeting took place in which Ms Mbugua says the governor informed her that NLC had no issue with the plots and that the county government would approve her development plan. The approval was to be conditional: she would have to surrender two properties - Thika Municipality/BlockXI/877 and Thika Municipality/BlockXI/878. She gave in to pressure and got the approval. The transfers were effected. The two plots were registered under Esther Nyatu Wamuyu. It is at this point, in March 2019, that she filed a complaint with the Commission.

The investigation by the Commission confirmed her plots were indeed transferred illegally, and that the Governor of Kiambu County had had a hand in it.

On the basis of the findings of the Commission, the Thika Land Registrar issued a 30-day notice to all the interested parties in line with the provisions of the Land Registered Act, 2012. The notice period expired without any objection thus the Registrar reverted ownership of the plots to Cecilia Mbugua. Ms Mbugua received her title documents at the Commission Offices on 26th September 2019.

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