Another widow has accused former Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu of raiding her nine-acre land in Lari and destroying property worth at least Sh30 million.
Pauline Chelagat Gitau, 55, says that Waititu grabbed her property by invoking President Uhuru Kenyatta’s name.
The raid, she says, happened in November 2018 at Kamae in Lari Sub-County.
With tears in her eyes, Gitau recalled how she was startled by a loud bang in her homestead in the Saturday morning incident.
The mother of three was shocked to learn from her second-born son that the then governor was in her farm felling trees planted on a seven-acre portion of the land.
“I was shocked and scared that the destruction of my trees was being done by the governor. Though I was scared, I went to the farm and confronted him, demanding to know why he had trespassed on my property,” says Gitau.
When she demanded to see documents authorising the invasion, the governor simply told her he was acting on the President’s orders.
“Mahali popote naenda President anajua na ndiye amenituma. Mimi gavana ndio serikali (Wherever I go, the President knows and he is the one who has sent me here.
(As the governor, I’m the government),” she recalls Waititu’s words, meaning President Kenyatta was fully aware and had approved Waititu’s mission of invading and destroying her property.
Accompanied by several county askaris, Waititu oversaw the felling of indigenous trees including cypress and cedar, all over 20 years old, and destruction of potatoes on two acres of land.
She painfully remembers how Waititu pointed at the biggest trees and ordered the ofﬁcers to fell them ﬁrst.
But Waititu insists Gitau’s land was part of the several parcels of property that had been grabbed in Lari and other parts of Kiambu.
“Yes, we invaded and repossessed the land because it remains a public land. In fact, Gitau knows quite clearly that she had grabbed public land which we moved to repossess,” Waititu said.
The former governor, who was replaced by his deputy James Nyoro recently, after being impeached by the County Assembly and the Senate, accused the widow of trying to whip up public sympathy through the allegations.
“It is unfortunate that she is taking advantage of the woes facing me at the moment to come up with the allegations. In any case, action should be taken against her for having grabbed public land,” said Waititu and promised to furnish us with documents on the land transaction today.
Gitau says she and her husband Major (rtd) Stephen Gitau planted the trees after they acquired the land in 1988.
The land was gifted to her now late husband by then President Daniel arap Moi. The major had served as Moi’s pilot while in the Kenya Air Force.
“That year when my husband received the land we dedicated every Sunday afternoon to go planting trees as a future investment. Then in just a day, the governor came and wiped off everything,” she narrated emotionally.
After the raid, which lasted about 12 hours, the farm had been completely cleared and logs loaded into waiting lorries, donkey carts and motorcycles for transportation all under Waititu’s watch.
Waititu and his team also vandalised barbed wire and 500 cider posts used to fence her homestead as they forcefully accessed the property.
In the process, she lost six goats and two geese while the falling trees destroyed the roof of her house.
The county security ofﬁcials assaulted her son who had been recording the incident with his phone and confiscated it.
The goons also raided her house and a suitcase belonging to her late husband was destroyed as the ofﬁcials looked for crucial documents, she says.
The raid and intimidation prompted Gitau to run away from her home and stay in a hotel in Nairobi for a month.
The widow says she decided to go to State House to ﬁnd out whether indeed President Uhuru had ordered the destruction of her property.
“I was desperate and confused. I went to the State House gate wailing and explained my grievances to the guards,” she says.
She later managed to get an audience with Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua who assured her that the President had not in any way ordered for the invasion of her property.
In a letter dated to November 28, 2018, and addressed to the President, Gitau outlines her grievances against the former governor requesting for his intervention.
Through Kinyua’s intervention, Gitau was escorted back to her home but efforts to reach county ofﬁcials to value her property were frustrated by the former governor, she claims.
She claims it’s only after an order was issued by Interior CS Fred Matiang’i that the Kenya Forest Services (KFS) ofﬁcials moved in to value her losses and the trees were valued at Sh30 million.
Her potato farm was, however, not valued as county ofﬁcials were uncooperative.
She says the incident has left her distressed and led her to develop high blood pressure.
Gitau, who lost her husband in 2015, says she decided to tell her story after Cecilia Mbugua had her Sh100 million plot returned to her after being seized by Waititu and had it transferred to his wife.
The accusations against Waititu’s impunity and the bold move by the widow Cecilia Mbugua emboldened her to speak out about the issue.
“Before the incident, I had a beautiful home but all I have now is a shell. At times it feels like a bad dream. I don’t feel safe at all. All I want is to have the property he destroyed compensated,” she says.