The National Government, through the Ministry of Lands, has issued the title deed of a contested 100-acre parcel of land in Mwea, Kirinyaga County to the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) despite area Governor Anne Waiguru refusing to hand over the land-ownership document until her conditions were met.
Ministry of Lands Principal Secretary, Dr Nicholas Muraguri, on April 16 issued the Mwea land title deed to KEMRI, despite Governor Waiguru being in possession of the original document, which indicated Kirinyaga County Government was the bona fide owner of the land.
The Lands docket now says the land-ownership document, which is in Waiguru’s custody is null and void as the new title deed overrules the old one.
Mwea MP Wachira Kabinga told K24 Digital that the governor now can’t put any obstacles to KEMRI’s Ksh15 billion health and research facility project on the disputed parcel of land.
Kabinga, who was in the presence of two other lawmakers, Gichimu Githinji (Gichugu) and John Wambugu (Kirinyaga Central) said they were grateful to Muraguri for ending the year-long impasse.
“Now, KEMRI has legal ownership of the land, and very soon, you would see construction work beginning,” said Kabinga.
Gichugu MP, Githinji, alleged that KEMRI was on the verge of channeling the project to another county, accusing Waiguru of frustrating its quest.
Kirinyaga Central MP Wambugu said it was as a result of area leaders’ unity that the PS for Lands heed the leaders’ call to have the land dispute ended.
The County Assembly of Kirinyaga had, on March 11, passed a motion compelling Waiguru to release the land-ownership document to KEMRI with immediate effect.
Waiguru, nonetheless, stood her ground, saying she wasn’t going to release the title deed until KEMRI accepted her terms and conditions.
It remains unclear whether she will file a petition against PS Muraguri’s move to create a new title deed for the Mwea land.
On February 14, Interior Principal Secretary Dr Karanja Kibicho had unkind words for Governor Waiguru after the county chief declined to transfer a 100-acre parcel of land in Mwea to KEMRI so that the agency could construct a Ksh15 billion health and research facility.
In October last year, Kirinyaga County Deputy Governor, Peter Ndambiri, said the reason Waiguru was yet to okay the transfer of land to the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) was because the institute bluntly refused to enter into an agreement with the governor.
“KEMRI is not willing to enter into an agreement with Governor Waiguru’s administration. That is why the title deed [of the Wamumu land in Mwea] hasn’t been handed over to it,” Ndambiri said while addressing Kirinyaga residents at Riandira Primary School during the 2019 Mashujaa Day celebrations.
“We want to know how our residents will benefit from the project. KEMRI must sign an agreement with us if it wants to be given the land document.”
The deputy governor told KEMRI that the document will only be released once the agreement is signed. The County Government of Kirinyaga wanted, among others, 30 per cent of the KEMRI project construction work be done by residents of the couty.
Ndambiri’s statement came on the back of a suit in court that stopped KEMRI from undertaking any development on the 100-acre parcel of land in Mwea.
Ksh15 billion mega project
KEMRI said it wanted to build a Level Five hospital, university, a medical supplies factory and a medical research center at Wamumu area in Mwea, all valued at Ksh15 billion.
In late October 2019, KEMRI through its lawyer, Wilfred Lusi, had gone to court seeking to have a September 2019 order stopping it from engaging in construction work on the land lifted.
Lusi told the Kerugoya Court that a contractor was already on the ground, but was stopped from going on with the construction of the proposed Ksh15 billion ultra-modern teaching and referral hospital on the land after a suit was filed at the Environment and Land Court.
The civil suit was filed by one Leonard Kuria, who named KEMRI as the first respondent and the Kirinyaga County Government as the second respondent.
Kuria through his lawyer D.N. Gitonga claimed KEMRI did not involve area residents (public participation) as required by the Constitution before commencing on the mega project.
Kuria in September 2019 had managed to get orders stopping the KEMRI project from going on.
The orders were issued by the Environment and Land Court Judge Enock Cherono, who ruled that construction could only resume after the matter was heard and determined.
In April this year, the petitioner, Kuria, returned to court and withdrew his case against KEMRI and the Kirinyaga County Government, leaving the land battle to the agency and the county administration.
On February 14, 2020, Interior PS Karanja Kibicho claimed Waiguru was out to sabotage the KEMRI project, which, according to him, would immensely benefit the people of Kirinyaga County.
“The governor’s decision to sabotage the project is sheer stupidity that should not be allowed to continue,” Kibicho said while monitoring the progress of development projects in Mwea Constituency.
“I am shocked that your governor is opposed to the KEMRI project, which will go a long way in boosting the economy of Kirinyaga County. It is stupid and foolish of one to oppose such a viable project that, upon completion, will be very important to the people of the county that she leads,” said Kibicho.
The PS said Kirinyaga County constituents stood to lose big time should the project be channeled to another county.
Kirinyaga County Deputy Governor was present as Kibicho toured Mwea.
The PS told Ndambiri to “implore upon the person who filed a case in court seeking to stop the KEMRI project to withdraw the suit immediately”.
“If that doesn’t happen, then I would advise Kirinyaga County residents to protest, demanding withdrawal of the said-case,” said Kibicho.
Ndambiri, four CECs of Kirinyaga County and the county secretary had been locked out of a meeting chaired by Kibicho as the PS met other National Government officials in a social hall in Mwea.
When the deputy governor attempted to gain access to the venue of the meeting, he was told to wait outside the hall as the 2-hour meeting went on inside the hall.
After the meeting ended, Kibicho is said to have refused to brief Ndambiri and his team on what they had deliberated on.
A disappointed Ndambiri told K24 Digital that Kibicho and his team were operating “arrogantly” in Kirinyaga without involving the county leadership.
“The national and county governments should work harmoniously with each other, and not engage in power struggles that end up hurting the mwananchi,” said Ndambiri.
“On the KEMRI project, Kirinyaga County Government has signed its part of the MOU, but the institute does not want to meet their side of the bargain,” said Ndambiri.