In a landmark ruling, the Environment and Land Court in Isiolo has directed the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) to pay a total sum of Sh413.9 million in compensation to residents of Isiolo, whose rights to property were violated during the relocation process to facilitate the expansion of Isiolo International Airport.
Justice Peter Njoroge, presiding over the case, emphasized the prolonged suffering of the 189 petitioners.
"I find that the petitioners have been rendered homeless for close to 20 years, they deserve compensation. I will award them a modest sum of Sh300, hardly enough to purchase two packets of maize flour, for each day the infraction of their right to enjoy their property has subsisted," Njoroge stated.
The court further instructed the Lands Cabinet secretary, Attorney General, National Land Commission (NLC), and KAA to complete the relocation of each petitioner to their designated parcels of land within the next 90 days.
Justice Njoroge underscored the urgency of rectifying the protracted denial of the residents' right to own and enjoy their property.
Highlighting the petitioners' general damages due to the compulsory acquisition of their lands in the early 2000s, Justice Njoroge remarked, “The petitioners were relocated from their land and for close to 20 years have remained landless as they were unable to access the land intended for their compensation. This is an unmitigated denial of their right to own and enjoy their property.”
The judge rejected arguments presented by the CS Lands, AG, and KAA, emphasizing that although attempts were made to compensate the residents, the delay of two decades exacerbated the indignity they endured.
Justice Njoroge also criticized the National Land Commission, stating that their failure to resolve the issue for 20 years debunked the claim that the petitioners had not exhausted local dispute resolution avenues.
The Isiolo residents, part of a larger group whose lands were compulsorily acquired for the airport expansion, revealed in court that the resettlement program they were promised was never realized.
Despite a balloting exercise conducted by the defunct county council of Isiolo, the petitioners were unable to take possession of their plots due to the invasion by hostile third parties, leaving them landless for nearly two decades.
This ruling sets a precedent for ensuring that individuals affected by government-driven land acquisitions receive timely and fair compensation, marking a significant step towards upholding property rights in the region.