A vicious court battle is brewing over African Orthodox Church’s land worth close to Sh2 billion.
The tussle pits the local clergy who want the land returned to them, against foreign missionaries affiliated to the church. The locals are also asking that they take over other church properties spread across the country.
The Kenyan clergy are accusing their foreign counterparts of illegally taking over what was meant to be under the locals.
African Orthodox Church of Kenya together with fathers Nicholas Gachege, Moses Ngugi, Peter Ng’ang’a and Fred Kago are demanding that the Orthodox Archbishopric of Kenya and Irinoupolis Ltd and Orthodox Towers Management led by Patriarch Theodoros Nicholas Choreftakis return everything that is under their name.
The African chapter of the Greek Orthodox is also seeking a Sh450 million building in Nairobi, claiming it was bought through the contribution of the locals.
“The defendants withdrew huge sums of money from the amount mentioned in the plaint and applied it to the purchase of the property in Upper Hill, Nairobi,” the claim filed before the lands Court by lawyer Arthur Ingutya, representing the locals, read. “The property so purchased is hereby claimed by the plaintiffs because it was bought with funds held in trust of the church,” he adds.
The plaintiffs claim they have been demanding the titles of the contested properties in vain. The contest between the two camps involves more than 100 acres of land.
“The properties were donated, purchased or otherwise acquired for the benefit of the African Orthodox Church of Kenya,” the court papers read. “The alienation of the properties was undertaken surreptitiously without consultation of the plaintiffs.”
In reply, Orthodox Archbishopric of Kenya and Irinoupolis argue that it is mandated to hold all title documents in relation to the church in Kenya under authority derived from the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria.
“The first defendant is the overall authority in Kenya and usually obtains donations from Europe and America for the benefit of the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs and their employees draw their salaries from the first defendant. Further the first defendant has built schools, centres, seminaries, clinics and other development projects for the benefit of the Kenyan communities,” the reply reads.
The Archbishop Makarios-led group also opposed inclusion of the Upper Hill property in the suit, saying the matter was settled in the Commercial Court in 2015. The case will be heard on March 29.