Justice Isaac Lenaola photo:courtesy
Catholic bishops have been ordered to pay an Islamic restaurant Sh13 million for evicting it from the church’s premises in Westlands, Nairobi.
Justice Isaac Lenaola ruled that the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops discriminated and violated the rights of Al Yusra Restaurant Ltd when they kicked them out of Waumini House on account that the bishops could not tolerate a business being operated by Muslims within their premises.
“The dispute brought to the fore the centuries-old conflict between religions yet the issue would have simply rested as a tenancy dispute. I find that the church’s refusal to allow the restaurant to carry on with their business was unlawful and discriminatory,” ruled Mr Lenaola.
According to the judge, the tenancy dispute between the bishops and Al Yusran escalated due to underlying religious beliefs, which totally broke down their relations.
Of the total amount awarded, Lenaola said Sh10 million would cater for the costs the restaurant used to refurbish the ground floor of Waumini House when they occupied it, while Sh3 million would be compensation for discrimination.
The judge dismissed claims by the bishops that the restaurant had illegally acquired the space to do their business through an irregular consent signed by Knight Frank Kenya Ltd, which manages the premises on behalf of the church.
“Knight Frank Kenya Ltd has no fault concerning the eviction of Al Yusra Restaurant. If indeed the church was aggrieved by their decision to rent the premises to the restaurant, there is a proper legal channel they should have followed instead of kicking out the tenants,” Lenaola said.
He added that by specifically targeting Muslims and Somali tenants within the premises and terminating their tenancy relationship, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops breached constitutional provisions on equality and fairness.
Lenaola said he agreed with the church’s doctrines and history of Catholicism, but those beliefs became a different ball game once they entered the commercial realm of business, which requires decency and respect for other religions.
“All parties were in agreement that the restaurant incurred losses when it refurbished the ground floor of Waumini House to suit its business. Justice demands that they be properly compensated,” ruled the judge.
Al Yusra had demanded Sh88 million compensation which the judge reduced to Sh13 million.