A Kenyan High Court has ordered former President Daniel arap Moi to compensate a widow whose land was illegally seized 36 years ago.
According to the court, the ex-president falsely claimed ownership of 64 acres of land which actually belonged to Susan Cheburet Chelugi, the widow of a local chief. Because arap Moi was unable to provide any evidence that he was the actual owner, the judge recognized the 85 year old Mrs. Cheburet Chelugi as the rightful owner.
The case is a rare instance of an ex-president or any high-ranking government official being found guilty of the crime of “land grabbing” and being forced to pay a fine.
Judge Ombwayo said Moi behaved in a way that was “unconstitutional, irregular, unprocedural” and “tainted” when he ordered land officials to register the property in his name. He then sold it to Rai Plywood Limited, a timber firm owned by the wealthy and politically-connected Jaswant Rai family of Kenya.
Judge Ombayo stated further: “There is not one iota of evidence as to how the former President was registered as the proprietor of the land, which was part of (property) that belonged to Noah Kimngeny Chelugui. “
“This court cannot protect property that was acquired through impropriety.”
Now both arap Moi and Rai Plywood Ltd will have to cough up $10 million – the sum being the current market value of the prime property.
This ruling is hugely significant for Kenya, as there have been numerous cases of land grabbing by high-ranking government officials and wealthy business people over the years, but the victims generally have neither the will nor the money to fight back.