6 December 2005

Kenya: Government Halts Eviction of Squatters

Nairobi — Controversy surrounding the eviction of over 3,000 squatters at Eburru Forest in Naivasha took a new twist on Monday when the Government abruptly suspended the exercise.

A contingent of more than 100 regular and Administration Police officers had already started demolishing houses at the wee hours of the morning.

But after two hours, Naivasha District Officer, Kaunda Maikara, told the settlers the eviction had been stopped to give them more time to harvest their crops.

Maikara, who could be seen consulting on phone, said he had received instructions to call off the exercise on humanitarian grounds, but insisted the Government would not back down.

"We have listened to your pleas and given you three weeks to harvest and then we will move in to evict those who will still be residing here," he said.

He added: "Our aim is to protect an important catchment area which is the lifeline to hundreds of people, and leaders should desist from trivialising the issue."

The eviction from the 12,000-acre forest was ordered on Friday after the expiry of a three-month notice issued by Nakuru District Commissioner, Paul Olando.

By the time the exercise was cancelled, some houses at 'Kosovo', one of the five villages in the forest, had been brought down as owners stood at a distance waving twigs and singing.

Local leaders, who have protested strongly over the eviction, have asked the Government to offer alternative land.

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