After delays and court battles spanning more than 30 years, members of the Emarti ole Narau Group Ranch finally received their title deeds
The old and not-so-old, men and women, rich and poor, urban and rural folk all quietly trooped to the expansive Emarti ole Narau Group Ranch for their share. A solemn moment, the climax of more than three decades in which they had waited, and waited, for subdivision of the land. Many are those who had died along the way, while others were now old and frail even as they rejoiced at the fulfilment of a lifetime hope.
The occasion on May 27, according to Group Ranch Secretary Josiah ole Kirisuah, was the issuance of title deeds to a total of 130 “plus 11” members of the ranch. Controversy had stalled the exercise for years, leading to a series of court battles for control of the 13,000-hectare ranch. Rev Kirisuah says the 11 members only benefitted when they won the court battle and were therefore considered alongside the rest, who had opposed their inclusion and stated that they stood to unfairly benefit from the subdivision.
Each of the beneficiaries received between 230 acres and 280 acres. Only 5 per cent of the members did not receive their title deeds due to disagreement within families on who would appear on the certificate of title. These are expected to be issued in the coming months, said Rev Kirisuah.
“Initially, there was a huge discrepancy in the land parcels, yet we were seeking equitable distribution. Nobody should get a double portion. This was resolved, said Rev Kirisuah. “There were also the 11 people who left for a different group ranch, then returned later to ask for a share from our ranch. The court however ruled that they should be given a share, even though smaller than other members who stayed in the group ranch.”
The names of the 11 members had been struck off the group ranch records, but were not struck off the records in the Lands registry. This created a loophole and the court, therefore, ruled in their favour.
More than a half of the members died in the more than 30 years during which the court battle raged, even though their families have still benefited. No acreage of the ranch was left unallocated, with even those who could not agree early enough on the names to appear on the titles receiving their parcels.
“We have been talking to our people not to sell their land carelessly. Instead, they should develop their parcels. They should only sell to purchase land and assets elsewhere. Even selling to educate children is only an excuse, because one can sell livestock to educate children without touching the land,” said Rev Kirisuah.
Generous provision has also been made for public utilities, with up to 34 parcels of land set aside for various purposes. These include roads, schools, churches, dams and boreholes. “We have successfully resisted interference by politicians. We will jealously guard against any encroachment of the areas set aside for public utilities by politicians and county officials who may seek to change these to their personal use,” says Rev Kirisuah, referring to rampant theft of public land by civil servants and politicians throughout the country. These parcels have been surrendered to the county government. “We will not allow any alienation of the land.”
Located in Mashuuru Sub-County of Kajiado East constituency, the ranch is suitable for livestock rearing — the mainstay of the local nomadic Maasai community. Some in the community are now also turning to alternative agricultural practices, including fruit trees. While no electricity is as yet available and members have to use solar power, water is obtained from dams and boreholes. The semi-arid area is hot and not suitable for intensive agriculture, although it is possible to undertake irrigation. While schools are available, roads are in a pathetic state.