Tuesday, November 10, 2009



November 9 2009

Failure by the British government and World Bank to provide enough money to buy all the land in the Scheduled Areas, also known as White Highlands, kick-started a private treaty land buying spree that tilted the balance in favour of the political elite, senior civil servants and business people.

Land Records and correspondence indicate that by December 1966, Mr Kenyatta bought more than 3895 acres in Nairobi and Ruiru at a total cost of Sh472,740.

The land was registered in either Mr Kenyatta’s or his wife Mama Ngina’s names, or in his two eldest sons Peter Magana, and Peter Muigai.

Hitherto unseen documents and records show that the Government also gave Mr Kenyatta some 178 acres in Nairobi and he got a further 509 acres leading the pack of big land ownership in the country.

Land for free had been ruled out by the British government during the negotiations for independence and a constitutional clause that guaranteed whites their “right to property” and which brought to the fore the “sanctity of title deed”.

That paved the way for the independence politicians, led by the Kenyatta family, to strike a fortune by “buying” land from fleeing white owners in Scheduled Areas.

From available records, it appears that most of the political leaders, businessmen and land buying companies capitalised on the new government’s inability to buy all the land on offer.

Actually, failure by British government to commit more money to buy land in the White Highlands is today regarded as the trigger to this free-for-all land-buying spree which left the penniless scrapping for tiny pieces of shambas. It also triggered land exchanges hitherto unseen in the history of this country.

Land changed hands in quick succession as thousands of desperate white farmers with no other recourse than to sell their land opted to leave. Politicians with power and money as well as businessmen with liquid cash managed to acquire thousands of acres creating a new African elite.

It is these transactions that have for years formed national discourse on whether the land, especially in the Rift Valley and other Scheduled Areas was rightly acquired or was a part of land grabbing. But details in government books show that indeed some of the land was bought from individuals.

Still landless

But what is questionable is why the government allowed individuals to own huge tracts of land when millions were still landless.

For instance, hardly a year into Kenyatta’s regime, Mama Ngina bought 1,006 acres in Dandora from Messrs Hendrik Rensburg for Sh200,000. One government documents puts the figure at Sh2,000,000—an astronomical sum at the time. Whichever figure was right this farm lies within the modern day Dandora Estate in Nairobi and beyond.

In the same area, Peter Muigai Kenyatta bought for Sh51,000 some 700 acres and a further 1266 acres North East of Nairobi for Sh87,000.

The only farm registered in Jomo Kenyatta’s name in 1964 was a 5 acre farm he bought from a Mr J.R. Wood for Sh400! His two sons, Muigai and Magana also bought 165 acres in Ruiru for Sh9,900 – meaning they bought an acre for Sh60.
Mr Kenyatta also paid Sh45,000 to acquire 100 acres in Dandora as a “Trustee for minor son Uhuru.”

Also former President Daniel arap Moi had by 1964 bought a 2,344 acres in Kampi-ya-Moto for Sh60,000. That appears to be a modest acquisition when compared to the acquisition patterns of 1964 when large chunks of land were on offer.

Mr Kenyatta’s right hand man, Minister of State Mbiyu Koinange, also bought 645 acres in Limuru for Sh497,000 while another Cabinet minister Ngala Mwendwa went for a 932 acre coffee farm in Kahawa worth Sh240,000.

First Vice-President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga appears not to have bought land using his name but did so under the Luo Thrift and Trading Company. In 1964 he bought 394 acres from the estate of B.H. Patel in Miwani and a further 401 acres in 1965 from C. Patel for Sh255,000.

But some of the largest land transactions involved organised land buying companies which freely bought land on offer. One of those farms is the Kiambaa Farm in Eldoret where arsonists torched a church during the post-election violence.

Records now indicate that Kiambaa Farmers Co-operative bought the 500 acre farm from Giuseppe Morat in 1967 for Sh80,000. Another farm, that has always been synonymous with tribal clashes is the Kamwaura Farm in Molo which was bought in 1967 for Sh240,000. The 1,636 acre farm was the first to witness clashes in 1990 and was bought from Lionel Caldwell who was leaving the country.

Other big companies that bought land in the area include Kipsitet Farmers Co-operative which bought 2,302 acres in Kericho for Sh300,000 from Margaritis Ltd.

One of the largest sales by a co-operative society was in 1965 when Ngati Farmers Co-operative bought 16,000 acres for Sh1.6 million from Maiella Ltd in Naivasha. By 1969, it remained one of the largest farms ever bought by a society and besides Mama Ngina nobody else had paid such large sums for land.

Another big landowner in Nairobi who emerged quite early is politician Gerishon Kirima who acquired more than 1000 acres in different parts of Nairobi becoming one of the single largest city land barons.

In Western Kenya former minister Burudi Nabwera and Benna Lutta were some of the largest buyers of land. Mr Nabwera, then a diplomat in Washington bought 1,221 acre in Trans Nzoia for Sh240,000 from Ellen Jervis while Mr Benna Lutta, later a judge, bought 1,685 acres in Kwanza.

Cabinet minister, Paul Ngei is recorded to have bought a 1,263 acre farm in Machakos from Kakuzi Fibreland Ltd. Another minister Dr Julius Gikonyo Kiano bought 176 acres in Kabete – which he later sold to University of Nairobi.

Other MPs who bought big farms include Mr Willy Kamuren (1,433 acres in Molo), Mr JM Kariuki (880 acres in Ol Kalou), Mr Fred Kubai (684 acres in Njoro), Mr Harry Onamu (349 acres in Turi), and Mr Yego arap Kibomet (1,496 in Moiben).

As that happened Britain kept a close check on the private land transaction and the High Commission in Nairobi would occasionally demand information.

From records it appears that Kenya and British governments had established the Caren Working Party led by a professional valuer, Mr C.J. Caren, which established rules on how to buy land.

While the Ministry of Lands and Settlement, through the Settlement Fund Trustee, was scouting for farms to buy it started to face competition from white settlers who were also buying land from each other to stabilise prices and for speculative purposes.
This trend had been realised in 1966 by Lands and Settlement minister Jackson Angaine, who after getting a copy of the sales report and the names of buyers remarked to his PS: “I am rather surprised to see such a large list of the farms changing hands from one to another. May we discuss”.

Whatever they discussed the transactions continued creating a new class of propertied families.

In the heat of the moment, land buying became political and in the craze only those who had the right information prospered.