24 March 2006

Kenya: 3,000 Homeless After Eviction From Forest

Nairobi — More than 3,000 squatters were yesterday rendered homeless after police and forest officials razed 120 houses on forest land.

Many of the displaced families camped on the borders of the Kipkurere forest on the border of Uasin Gishu and Nandi South districts with their property.

They appealed to the Government to resettle them elsewhere.

The squatters watched in disbelief forest guards and regular and administration police officers from Nandi South, Uasin Gishu and Lugari districts set their houses on fire following the expiry of the 21-day eviction notice.

The operation, which was supervised by the Uasin Gishu district forestry officer, Mr Francis Misonge, lasted more than six hours.

Some of the squatters accused others who had been allocated land at Chereber forest in Uasin-Gishu district for encroaching on the forest.

"This forest is our ancestral land, which we have occupied from time immemorial. But some outsiders have taken advantage of our presence to encroach on it despite being allocated alternative land by the Government," said Mr Shadrack Mtung, a member of the Ogiek community, who welcomed the eviction.

He however petitioned the government to carry out a thorough vetting process to enable genuine squatters and members of the Ogiek community to be allocated alternative land.

Several acres of onion and tobacco plantations were also destroyed as the forest guards and security personnel razed down the houses in the process of flushing out the squatters.

The eviction follows a series of meetings by the Uasin-Gishu District Commissioner Mr. Andrew Gitonga Rukaria and his Nandi South counterpart Ms Lydia Muriuki on the need of the squatters to move out of the forest land.

They accused the squatters of wanton destruction of the forest cover which forms water catchment to most rivers draining its water to Lake Victoria.

Misonge said the water volume of most streams flowing to Lake Victoria had drastically reduced due to the destruction of forests in the area.

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