Karume 1000 acre land sale deal backfires

Defense minister Njenga Karume may face a legal battle over an alleged illegal sale of 1,000 acres peace of land to the Government of Kenya at a cost of Kshs 169m. it has now emerged that Karume had allegedly illegally acquired the land from Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) in 1994.

Although it is not known why the controversial sale of the said piece of land is coming up more than 10 years after Karume acquired it and more than one year after it was sold to the Government, sources say the matter came to public limelight when some government officials attempted to repossess it but the increasingly influential Karume and those who benefited from the sale frustrated the efforts.

Those who have been closely monitoring the saga divulged that Karume who owns big parcels of land in Nakuru acquired the land way back during the Moi and Kanu regime at a time when those loyal to the system were rewarded with pieces of land.

The sale of the controversial ADC plots in the early 1990s was ordered by Moi who affected changes to the ADC Act that empowered parastatals to dispose land under its care.

But in a quick rejoinder, Karume stood his ground and insisted he legally acquired the land saying laid down procedures were followed to the letter and that when he sold it to the government last year, the transaction was transparently done on a willing-buyer, willing-seller basis.

Documents show that Karume sold to the government parcel of land No. LR9060 (Shs 72m) and LR9696 (Shs 48m). But as much as Karume has come out fighting, sources say he bought the land for Shs 1m and that the sale eluded legal scrutiny.

We have gathered that by the time the government was entering into the sale agreement with Karume, government officials did not bother to counter-check how Karume acquired the land. The land was however bought to settle squatters from Likia Forest and other areas affected by tribal clashes in the early 1990s.

Ten years after purchasing the parcel of land which he had not developed by the time of the controversial sale, Karume allegedly approached the Lands minister sometimes in June 2005 to buy the piece of land to settle squatters. Interestingly, it was the time that the government through the minister for Finance allocated Shs 400m in the 2005/2006 budget as part of the resettlement programme.

Although it is said valuation of the plot was done to favour Karume, it emerged that Karume had offered to sell the parcel to the government at Shs 250,000 per acre but later accepted the government’s offer of Shs 159,000 per acre.

But even as queries are being raised over the controversial sale, rumours spreading like bushfire say the Government ahs received requests from Karume to sell more pieces of land to the government after Finance minister allocated Shs 1.5 bn for the resettlement programme in the current financial year’s budget.

But those who have been involved in the sale negotiations revealed there is general fear that Karume may be in a hurry to sell out the plots as a commission appointed by the president in 2003 to look into illegal allocation of public land recommended that the controversial ADC plots sold to politically correct individuals and businessmen be repossessed as the transactions amounted to corruption.

According to the report, the commission through its chairman Nairobi lawyer Paul Ndung’u specifically recommended that the ADC plots sold to Karume and others be repossessed and the beneficiaries charged for corruption. The plots were sold to the government when there was pressure from the public that the president makes public findings of the Ndung’u report that implicated senior government officials in serious land grabbing. It was during that time that Karume pulled a fast one against the government and negotiated for the sale.

What remains to be seen now is whether the government can move in to either repossess the controversial ADC plots or implement the Ndung’u report which implicated Karume among other top government officials.

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