By RAMADHAN RAJAB, published in THE STAR
Civil society groups have condemned the state for prosecuting five people who have been fighting to reclaim land allegedly grabbed from a public school in Nakuru.
The five appeared in a Nakuru court on Monday and now face criminal charges.
Nakuru Town East MP David Gikaria, activist Boniface Mwangi, journalist Elijah Kinyanjui, Flamingo Ward MCA Moses Gichangi and headteacher Francis Kihero are accused of malicious damage of property on May 19.
They allegedly pulled down a wall erected by Enese Limited, a private company, that was blocking access to Naka Primary School.
Through the ShuleYangu alliance, activists have expressed “shock and disappointment” over the prosecution of the five.
Irung’u Houghton of the alliance said the school, which sits on 10 acres of land, serves hundreds of low income families.
The school that sits on 10 acres was set up in 1985.
But in 2011, Enese, a company associated with a former mayor in Nakuru, acquired the land and forcefully evicted the school.
“The school has been forced to temporarily set up dilapidated structures in a neighbouring nursery school that occupies 2 acres of land. A consequence of the eviction has seen school attendance dropped from 650 to 350 pupils,” Houghton said.
The group wants the Director of Public Prosecutions to explain why a public prosecutor was being used to charge the defendants.
“The five had appeared in court on a civil case summon, but criminal charges were preferred to them and a public prosecutor is handling the case,” he said.
“For us, the five have acted in the public interest to reclaim and protect the land belonging to the primary school. It is bizarre for citizens to be charged by the state for defending and protecting public property that is at risk of being grabbed by private developers,” he added.
The activists want the case terminated and further asked the National Land Commission to act on the matter by revoking the developers’ title deed.
They also want the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, EACC and the DPP to investigate, arrest and prosecute those linked to the case.
“We want the Judiciary to immediately establish special courts to hear and determine all land cases involving public schools,” Houghton said.
The State department of lands and physical planning needs to expedite the titling of public schools in line with the presidential directive of January 22, 2015 in the aftermath of the incident at Lang’ata Road primary school, the alliance demanded.