The move by the Kericho County Governor Prof. Paul Chepkwony to order multinational firms occupying up to 300 thousand acres to immediately surrender title deeds to allow fresh survey is important and imperative to impoverished residents.
Chepkwony, who since he came to power in 2013, has been in and out of local and international law courts championing for the rights of the Kipsigis and Talai communities who were condemned to lifelong poverty by the British colonialists who deprived them their rightful lands.
Prof. Chepkwony who believes that Kericho is yet to gain independence because it’s residents are still suffering injustices decades after the country gained independence fifty-six years ago reveals that he is a victim whose struggle is driven by injustices inflicting his close family members.
While addressing a public hearing of the case he filed against the UK Government at the British Institute of East Africa today, Chepkwony said, the title deeds possessed by James Finlay and Unilever only covers 89 000 acres whereas, the land underuse is more than 300,000 acres.
” First, the 999 years lease agreement was terminated by the 99 years lease that is provided by the constitution of Kenya. Therefore, we don’t intend to take over the land in the letter we wrote but to regularize the land by resurveying it, then lease it out to them the actual size of land for the legal period of 99 years” he said
According to the governor, the multinationals are hesitant to surrender title deeds in their possession because they don’t cover the entire land under their use.
He said, the title deeds only cover the land occupied by tea omitting sections under bluegum plantations, settlement and riparian areas that they are still using.
The meeting held in Kileleshwa Nairobi was attended by his lawyers Kimutai Bosek and Rodney Dickson, representatives of Kericho residents, several members of County Assembly and some interested Briton citizens.
Following the incessant efforts of the Governor, the National Land Commission issued an order early this year that multinational tea estates in Kericho and Bomet counties should first agree with the devolved governments on the future terms before their leases are renewed.
According to the NLC recommendation, any land that will be found by fresh survey to be in excess will be documented then be held by the counties as community trust lands.
According to the Governor, the NLC recommendations are to be implemented within three years.
Chepkwony firmly stood his ground that the County Government is the bonafide owner of the land and therefore, the resurvey process will continue whether the tea estates will surrender titles or not.
” We are the owners of the land who should lease out the land so we are going to resurvey the land and give term nee lease terms whether they like it or not,” he said