29 January 2013

Kenya: Mau Forest Settlers Clash With Police, Foresters

TENSION remained high in the Maasai Mau forest yesterday after settlers clashed with more than 30 security officers drawn from police and Kenya Forest Service.

Speaking to the Star on phone, Narok South DC Chimwaga Mongo said the officers were trying to move the more than 300 settlers out of the gazetted forest so as to restore it.

He said the settlers defied the orders and came at the officers with machetes, bows and poisonous arrows causing them to flee. "Police had to shoot in the air to to scare the settlers who sang war songs and chanted anti-government slogans," he said.

Mongo said the settlers are part of a group removed from Olpusimoru section of the forest last year but were incited by some politicians. "Politicians are to blame for the degradation of the forest. In a search for votes, they incite settlers not to move out of the forest and those evicted to return," he said.

On their part, the settlers through their spokesman William Cheruiyot, said they have genuine title deeds and are ready to conserve the forest if they are involved.

"We don't want this circus any more. What we want is for government to come to the farms and negotiate with the settlers. Otherwise we are not going anywhere," he said. Some 15,000 people are settled in the forest which is a trust land of Narok County Council.

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