27 March 2006

Kenya: State Defends Forest Evictions

Nairobi — The Government has defended the eviction of squatters from Kipkurere Forest in Uasin-Gishu district.

Environment permanent secretary George Krhoda described the eviction as "the best solution to (end) interethnic animosity across the two districts" of Nandi South and Uasin Gishu.

Krhoda added that the forest cover serves as a water catchment area for several rivers in Western Kenya. He said in a statement that a joint district security meeting recommended that the squatters leave the forest to resolve tension at the border of the two districts.

The PS said the two border communities had lived in resentment and animosity because one was allowed to cultivate the vast forest while the other did not enjoy the permission.

"The committee suggested that the squatters in the forest land at the border be evicted to eliminate any ethnic tension across the two districts," he said. Krhoda said before the eviction, a 21-day quit notice had been served and initially the squatters obeyed, leaving structures on forest land.

Last week, over 1,200 houses were set ablaze by forest officers, leaving over 3,000 settlers in makeshift structures and on the roadside.

Since the operation started two weeks ago, over 1,000 hectares of land has been recovered, Krhoda said.

The PS said the houses were torched to prepare the land for reafforestation. The evictees accused the Government of dishonesty for failing to give them alternative land.

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