21 June 2006

Kenya: Stop Forest Evictions, Say KNUT Officials

Nairobi — Eviction of squatters should be put on hold because it is interfering with the running of schools, two union officials have said.

Nandi South Knut secretary Boniface Tenai and his Nandi North counterpart, Mr Josephat Serem, asked the Government to stop further evictions and find a lasting solution to landlessness.

Their views were echoed by an Anglican Church of Kenya cleric, the Rev John Sangut, in a separate statement.

According to them, over 3,000 squatters had been evicted from Government forests in Nandi South. As a result, about 650 pupils, whose parents are squatters, have had their education interfered with.

Mr Tenai and the Rev Sangut said the area had recorded low enrolment in primary schools because parents were yet to be given a permanent settlement.

Relief food

They also asked the Government to provide relief food to squatters at Cerengonik, Ngatipkong and Tinderet forests because most were starving and could easily get communicable diseases due to their poor living conditions.

But Nandi South district forest officer Otieno Mboga said the squatters moved out of the forests voluntarily after they were served with the notices.

He said learning at Cerengonik and Kosabei primary schools had not been interfered with and the squatters had been allowed to tend and harvest their crops and graze their animals for a fee.

The screening of genuine squatters was going on and deserving candidates would be considered for resettlement.

Mr Mboga said water catchment points in the district had been destroyed due to cultivation in forests but the Government was determined to protect and rehabilitate the cleared forests.

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