Former Lands boss is now a preacher, loathes grabbing matters
Eric Wainaina @EWainaina
After retiring in 1997, only to face a litany of criminal and civil cases related to land fraud and murder, former Commissioner of Lands Wilson Gachanja’s story could easily pass for a case study of the Biblical tale of King Saul, who intensely persecuted followers of Jesus Christ as he advanced Judaism before converting to Saint Paul.
Gachanja, whose current financial status is a pale shadow of former self, retreated to his village farm in the remote Gatero village in Laikipia West constituency, where he farms and is also a preacher in the Seventh Day Adventist Church, something which those who knew him would never have imagined.
He owns a vast acreage near Gatero Girls’ High School and some houses in Nairobi.
Here, he set aside an estimated two-acre piece of land in which he helped build a “big church.”
He occasionally moves to other churches to preach and his current activities, betrays his past character that saw him preside over theft of public land.
These days, he is also known to be quite generous. Occasionally, according to his neighbours, he slaughters cows for the church community.
According to his neighbours, Gachanja moved to Laikipia county during the time he and his wife Elizabeth Gitiri and other relatives, were facing charges of executing the February 4, 2000 cold-blooded murder of his friend-turned-foe, Lawrence Magondu, a teacher turned land broker.
Gachanja and his wife, her sister Rose Muruatetu and brother Francis Karioko, would later be paraded in court over allegations of killing Magondu in a gruesome murder that happened in Kitengela, where Magondu had gone to inspect a plot, he was supposed to buy.
While Gachanja was later acquitted for lack of evidence, his wife and siblings were found guilty of luring Magondu to his death and were sentenced to hang by Justice Mbogholi Msagha in 2003.
His wife Gitiri, was indicted for financing and planning the killing of the businessman, but a Court of Appeal three-judge bench, late in 2011, acquitted her on grounds that the claims against her were insufficient to nail her.
Those who have interacted with Gachanja recently, say he never wants to be associated with any land issues apparently, because they have plunged him into countless problems.
“Even when he is at home, it is very difficult to tell whether he is there or not. But he spends most of his time there,” a neighbour who sought anonimity said.
“Some would expect that because he was very powerful in matters of land, they can seek his assistance in that area.
But he always refuses when approached, saying he never wants anything to do with land and government offices,” the neighbour said.
But Gachanja is not the only former Lands boss facing cases linked to theft of public land, with his successor Sammy Mwaita who took over office in 2,000, perhaps having the most cases.
Mwaita has been accused of not only aiding Kanu big wigs to steal public land but also allocating himself huge chunks.
In one of the cases by EACC against the man who dished out land in the Mau Forest Complex to firms and individuals, Justice Sila Munyao in March this year, ordered the former Baringo Central MP to return to government, a house in Mombasa which he had allocated to his company.
Other past holders of the powerful office as well as the first National Land Commission chairman Mohammad Swazuri have found themselves in court over controversial land allocations and alleged corruption.