By JERRY OTIENO
Looters of public land and other assets in Kenya have been given days to return back the looted wealth, Chief Justice Willy Mutunga has said.
Mutunga said that those who stole public land should make haste and return back what they stole or irregularly acquired before they are caught, warning that the consequences will be severe.
“There is a general misconception of public property as idle, free-for-all loot to be plundered at will. Public property is the people’s property. It cannot be trifled with, stolen, gifted or otherwise appropriated for personal enrichment. Those who wish to test the judiciary’s commitment to protect public property need to have a fresh look at the Constitution,” said Mutunga.
The CJ made the remarks during the handover of a Title Deed to the Judiciary by Lands Minister James Orengo at the Supreme Court in Nairobi yesterday.
He appealed to all those who are holding judiciary and public property, to hand it in so that it can be deployed to the use for which it was intended.
The CJ said that Judiciary had not just lost courthouses, residences for judges and magistrates, but also parcels of land upon which it was meant to base its expansion.
“Impunity has no clearer manifestation than this: that an individual or a group of individuals would appropriate that which belongs to the common good for their private benefit, without expecting any consequences,” he warned.
Flanked by High Court Registrar Gladys Shollei, Mutunga said that the establishment of a specialised Environment and Land Court, will shine a light on many dark corners in the land sector, streamline the adjudication of cases and reduce waiting periods for so long exploited to unfair advantage.
On his part, Lands Minister James Orengo said that recovery of public land required bold but legal intervention.
He said that over the year’s public land had been illegally or irregularly allocated and acquired and assured that the National Land Commission (NLC) will effectively deal with the land problems which were extensively examined by the commission of Inquiry into the illegal and irregular allocation of public land.
“The National Land Commission is now empowered expressly by the law to deal with both illegally and irregularly acquired public land. The commission has also the power of review of all grants and dispositions of public land to establish their property or legality,” said the Minister.
Orengo said that the Ministry of Lands had made tremendous efforts and repossessed about 1000 parcels of land for the last three years.
On the violation of Court orders, the two officials said that the new constitutional dispensation will deal with them at a particular time and warned that the blatant violation of the orders was a violation of the constitution.
“Anyone who violates a court order is violating the constitution. We must desist from this habit and uphold the rule of law,” said Mutunga.
More than 1.47 hectares (Four acres) initially grabbed by private individuals belonging to the Mombasa law courts was handed over to the CJ.