The eviction of more than 20,000 residents accused of settling illegally in Ngong Forest has been halted after a section of the residents moved to court to challenge the planned demolitions.
Justice Benard Eboso of the Environment and land Court extended orders barring Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko and the Kenya Forest Service from demolishing the homes pending the hearing of the case on July 28.
In the petition challenging the demolitions, the residents argue that they obtained title deeds lawfully and the planned demolitions are thus illegal.
One of the residents identified as Kagwanja Thuo said that he acquired the land from Bahati Member of Parliament Kimani Ngunjiri in 2006 and has since erected his home.
Thuo urged the court to intervene and stop the demolitions that will result in unbearable losses.
The petitioners argue that they are innocent buyers and the intended demolitions amount to impunity.
Keriako said last month that the over 800 lavish homes, mostly in Racecourse and Lang’ata, sit on illegally acquired land and the government has plans to evict the individuals from the forest land.
The affected estates include but not limited to Lang’ata Gardens, Langa’ta View Gardens, Forest Edge, Kenya Medical Association Estate, St Mary’s Hospital, Royal Park, and Sunvalley I and II.
Tobiko urged the landowners who have claimed to have land titles, to surrender or risk “Mau Forest-like wrath”.
“I’m hereby declaring the immediate commencement of the recovery process of the land in the Ngong Road Forest that has over the years been illegally acquired,” he said.
The CS also noted that his ministry has orders from President Uhuru Kenyatta to revoke titles of “all areas of this forest other than the areas that were validly degazetted and lawfully excised for public purposes”.
“All the other parcels of this forest, whether the people on them have title deeds or not, whether they have built houses and apartments or business structures on them or not, will have their titles revoked.”
In 1932, the forest is said to have measured 7,239 acres. But after independence, the forest had shrunk to 3,722.5 acres.
14 years later, Ngong Forest had shrunk even further to some 3,274.57 acres.
According to Kenya Forest Service (KFS) chief surveyor, Evans Kegode, there are plans to steal more land.