Tension is high in Marmanet in Laikipia district after several houses were destroyed for encroaching into Marmanet Forest. Over 50 security officers from the Kenya Forests Service, Kenya Police and Administration Police invaded the area on Friday night.
The police stormed the village, destroyed the houses and crops before evicting them on claims that they had encroached on the forest.
A resident, Joseph Ogaro, said the officers tied them with ropes before shoving them into a police land rover to avoid retaliation. "They said that they had been deployed by their seniors to evict us from our homes as we were living on a forest land. But this is not true. They warned us not to go back to our homes," said Ogaro.
The residents have since vowed not to leave saying they were issued with title deedds for the land by the government.
Urumwe Mukaro Self-Help Group secretary Paul Mwati said the government should not intimidate the residents since the land was legally allocated to them.
The residents who own land in the area are members of the Urumwe Mukaro Self-Help Group. Mwati said the allegations that they were encroaching on forest land was untrue adding that their titles were genuine. "We have lived here for the last twelve months and we have nowhere else to call home.We will not vacate the land and we dare the Government to evict us," he said.
Mwati said the police officers deployed to evict them did not produce a court order to do so. "We want to know who sent the police to destroy our houses without an eviction notice or a court order. Their actions are suspicious because they raided the village at night," he said.
Mwati said they will go to court to seek compensation orders as their property and crops were destroyed.
John Barno, another villager, said they have lived in the area for 12 years and will need to be compensated if their plots are forest land since they have legal title deeds. "The government is still issuing title deeds for plots in this area and we cannot understand why it turns out that it is now forest land. We will not be evicted from homes we have in for over ten years now," he said. Efforts to talk to Nyahururu zonal forest manager William Cheptoo prooved futile as his phone went unanswered.