Key Cases Activist Okiya Omtatah Has Won in Court

  • Okiya Omtata in a court appearance on June 3, 2019.
    Okiya Omtata in a court appearance on June 3, 2019.
  • Okiya Omtatah is a famous Kenyan Human rights activist. Interestingly, he is not a professional lawyer but he has drafted, filed and won some key cases that are of public interest.

    Here are some of the key cases he has won in court that were against the Government of Kenya:

    The 843 Acres Government Land

    Human Rights Activist Okiya Omtatah during a past court session.
    Human Rights Activist Okiya Omtatah during a past court session.

    In August 2019, Omtatah secured a major victory after he recovered 843 acres of public land in Busia county following an eight-year legal battle.

    Government acquired the land from residents of Nasewa in the 1990s and gave it to Busia Sugar Company for the construction of a sugar company but it was never built on the land.

    However, the company was later put under insolvency by Mumias Sugar Company which claimed the land, arguing the company owed it Ksh 100 million.

    After winning the case, the Busia County Land Registrar issued a new title deed that Omtatah handed back to the Government through the Busia County Commissioner.

    Covid-19 Case Against Government

    In April 2020, went to the High Court of Kenya to challenge the order by the Ministry of Health that required travelers to pay for their own quarantine expenses in a bid to contain the Covid-19 virus.

    The activist won the case against the state in December 2020 as Justice James Makau that the order by the Ministry of Health was unlawful and contrary to the Public Health Act for the state to compel people into quarantine an order from a magistrate's court as required by law.

    The court further stated that the government violated the rights of people who were forced into quarantine after jetting up into the country without a proper plan.

    Ruaraka Land Case

    In December 2016, Omtatah obtained an order from Justice Okong’o of the High Court, barring the government from making any payments in the controversial Ksh3.2 billion Ruaraka land.

    “That with a view to preserving the subject matter of the suit, the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th respondents are prohibited from making further payments to the 1st and 2nd respondents directly or through their agent Almasi Limited in respect of compensation on the LR No. 7879/4 pending the hearing of the application dated 28 the November 2016 inter parties,” the judge ruled.

    Recruitment of The NLC Commissioners

    In November 2018, Omtatah challenged the appointment of the former Nyeri Town MP Esther Murugi and former Isiolo Woman Representative Tiyah Galgalo as commissioners of the National Land Commission (NLC).

    According to Omtatah, the process was marred with irregularities as they were shortlisted for the position of chairperson and not commissioners.

    Omtatah also told the court that names of the two individuals were sneaked in by the Selection Committee after failing in the chairperson’s interviews.

    As a result, Justice Hellen Wasilwa of the High Court of Kenya stopped the appointment of the two individuals, arguing that the selection committee disobeyed the principles of appointment in public service.

    Importation of Contraband Sugar

    In October 2017, the activist moved to court to stop the importation of duty-free sugar, claiming the decision was made without public participation involving all stakeholders in the sugar industry.

    Omtatah argued that the importation of duty-free sugar was going to hurt thousands of sugarcane farmers and employees in the sugar industry across the country.

    As a consequence, the High Court stopped the government from importing the duty-free sugar.  

    Human rights activist Okiya Omtatah and Chief Justice David Maraga.
    Human rights activist Okiya Omtatah and Chief Justice David Maraga.