20 April 2005

Kenya: Protestors Accuse Foresters of Grabbing

Nairobi — Hundreds of residents of Mandera town yesterday protested against the grabbing and commercialisation of the only forest in the district.

The protestors led by local environmentalists and human rights activists appealed to Environment minister Kalonzo Musyoka to stop destruction of the forest by unscrupulous workers from the Forest Department.

Speaking to the press after a two-hour protest, Kenya Human Rights Commission representatives led by Abdisirat Abdisaman said officers from the Forest Department sank a commercial borehole in the name of a community-based organisation called Al-Habib without a feasibility study on the effects of the activity on the forest.

He said the activities of the organisation, registered five years ago and owned by the forest officers, have destroyed a huge portion of the forest.

He also claimed that the officers felled down more trees to create a commercial car wash bay and parking yards where customers are charged Sh50 for parking and Sh300 for a car wash.

Abdisaman further alleged that the project fetches over Sh75,000 from donkey cart owners who are charged Sh10 per trip to the water point.

Over 500 donkey operators work from the forest daily.

When contacted, the District Forest Officer, Mr Mohammed Alike downplayed the matter.

Other sources claim that 12 of Al Habib members are from the Forest Department while 30 are from other ministries.

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