27 February 2006

Kenya: Squatters Given Quit Notice

Nairobi — About 3,000 squatters living in Kipkurere Forest in Uasin Gishu have two weeks to move out or be evicted.

The quit notice was issued by the District Forest Officer, Francis Misonge, who accused the squatters of indiscriminately cutting trees for firewood and charcoal.

Misonge said that a security meeting between Nandi South and Uasin Gishu administrations would be held at the forest on Wednesday to plan the evictions.

"The squatters have been in the forest for the past 10 years and their activities in the forest has led to massive destruction of the ecosystem through charcoal burning and illegal cultivation," he told The Standard in Eldoret town.

He advised the settlers to get in touch with their chiefs so that they can be considered for resettlement.

Misonge said that the Government was committed to restoring the declining forest plantations in the country by ensuring proper management of forests through constant surveillance.

"The ministry is not going to soften its stand when it comes to destruction of forest because reduced forest cover is a threat to livelihood," Misonge said.

The notice comes barely two months after thousands of squatters were evicted from the Mt Elgon Forest.

Elsewhere, more than 10,000 Mau Forest evictees want the Government to allow them to go back, seven months after they were kicked out. The evictees accused the Government of failing to resettle them as promised.

They spoke as a group of Narok South residents claimed that there was a move by the Government to buy a 800-acre piece of land belonging to an influential person at an inflated price for resettling some Mau evictees.

Led by Friends of Mau Conservation Trust, the group claimed that officers from Ministry of Lands in Nairobi identified the land two weeks ago and plans were at an advanced stage to purchase it. "The land was, in the first place, acquired illegally," said Jackson Kamuye, the group's chairman.

On Sunday, the evictees were still camping at various trading centres in Narok South and Bomet districts.

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