Kanu loses bid to reclaim iconic KICC complex

Tuesday, June 4th, 2024 03:30 | By
The KICC complex in Nairobi city centre. PHOTO/Print

Independence party Kanu has lost its bid to reclaim the iconic Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) that dominated the Nairobi skyline for decades.

The land on which KICC stands was also not available for alienation and hence the process that led to the allocation of the parcel to Kanu in May 1969 was illegal from the start, Environment and Land Court Judge Jacqueline Mogeni ruled yesterday.

“The allocation of the land to the petitioner [Kanu] was unlawful, illegal and unconstitutional from the start,” the judge said.

But the former ruling party has vowed to appeal the ruling.

The judge said the party and its officials failed to follow the right process to acquire the land.

Title deed revoked

The court revoked the title issued to Kanu and declared the Ministry of Tourism as the lawful owner of the land.

Justice Mogeni upheld a new title deed - registration number 209/19829, issued on June 1, 2010 - to the Treasury principal secretary as a trustee for the Tourism ministry, saying it was valid.

Kanu had wanted the court to declare that it was the beneficial owner of the land LR No. 209/11157, arguing that it had been allocated the lot and obtained a title deed for it 20 years later for a term of 99 years.

The party said it had the right to own and dispose of the property but that its rights were irregularly and unlawfully curtailed through an Executive Order on February 11, 2003 reclaiming the property.

The government used that order to evict Kanu, its agents and tenants from the building and took it over although the party was never served with the order.

Kanu had argued that its title deed had not been recalled or revoked and that the takeover was, therefore, illegal and a breach of its rights.

Electricity bills

The party argued that though the government had taken over KICC, it failed to settle electricity bills, leading to its Nakuru branch office being attached by Kenya Power for a debt of Sh350 million.

Meanwhile, KICC chief executive officer James Mwaura has welcomed the court’s ruling, saying it opens the door to renewed efforts to improve the financial performance of this national landmark for the benefit of all Kenyans.

Justice Mogeni noted that Kanu had failed to present evidence of the legal procedure by which the public land was alienated and allocated to the party. The commissioner of lands, she emphasized, had no authority to allocate the property to the party.

Mwaura expressed relief that this longstanding issue, which was his priority since he was appointed in March, had been resolved.

“This decision paves the way for us to focus on accelerating the strategic efforts to enhance the profitability of this iconic building, and grow Kenya’s Conference Tourism,” he said.

He thanked government officials for their support in the push to secure the title deed for the land. He added that previous KICC managers had tried in vain to secure the document and was glad the matter had been settled.

No compensation

Kanu had filed the case in 2020 seeking to reclaim the land, arguing that it had been allocated to the party in May 1969 by the commissioner of lands.

The party maintained it held an indefeasible title to the land under Section 26 of the Land Registration Act, No. 3 of 2012, and contended that the government’s takeover in February 2003 was unlawful and the party had not been compensated.

Justice Mogeni’s ruling clarified that the government repossessed the plot in 1971 and subsequently allocated money to complete the building, which was officially opened by Kenya’s first president, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, in September 1973.

Despite Kanu’s claims, the court affirmed that the government had managed and maintained the complex with public funds.

“This landmark ruling marks a significant step in securing the future of the KICC, allowing it to serve its intended purpose as a premier convention centre and a symbol of national pride,” said Mwaura.

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