Kenya: Squatters Kicked Out of Varsity Land in Lamu Cry for Justice

21 January 2020

Several squatter families in Lamu are crying for justice following their recent eviction from a disputed piece of land said to belong to Egerton University.

The over 10 families have now been forced to put up camps by the roadside in Mikinduni, Mkunumbi Division in Lamu West since they were thrown out of the 432-acre piece of land on December 19, 2019.

Speaking to journalists on Monday, the squatters, most of whom are farmers, said they were left with nothing after their properties were destroyed during the eviction which was supervised by armed police officers and other State agencies.

HOUSES DEMOLISHED

Their spokesman, Joseph Kiplagat, who has lived on the disputed land since 2001, said during the eviction, police officers stood guard as bulldozers demolished their houses and other structures which they had put up.

Mr Kiplagat accused some local politicians of colluding with tycoons to frustrate them.

"There was a court battle which we previously won. We were shocked to see armed police officers and operators with bulldozers who invaded our dwellings and destroyed them completely. There were almost 50 houses built on the disputed land which were all demolished in December. We were also ordered to vacate. We have nothing at the moment and that's why we are camping here by the roadside. We have nowhere to go. We need justice," said Mr Kiplagat.

CROPS

Joshua Yeri, a father of eight, said he has been living on the disputed land since 2003.

Mr Yeri said all the crops that they had planted have now been fenced inside the disputed land.

"We were left homeless. We don't have food here as all the crops that we farmed have now been fenced inside the Egerton land. We're not allowed to set foot on the land. Hunger is in the offing. We need urgent help," said Mr Yeri.

Margaret Kamande, a mother of 12 and who has lived on the disputed land for more than 18 years, said the eviction has affected learning as most of their children are now forced to stay with their homeless families.

ALTERNATIVE LAND

Mrs Kamande asked the government to allocate them alternative land and also compensate them for their destroyed houses and crops.

"Where do we go from here? They threw us out just like that without caring what our fate would be. We're now living by the roadside and no one seems to care. We don't know where we will go, or where our children will go. Schools have reopened. Do we now look for school fees or a house to live in? It's the high time that the government comes to our aid by resettling us on an alternative piece of land. They should also give us money to rebuild our houses which they destroyed," said Mrs Kamande.

Mr Samuel Maina accused the Lamu County leadership of remaining silent and showing disinterest in the matter.

"It is unfortunate that despite what we've been going through for all these weeks, our governor and the county leadership as a whole are quiet. They are not concerned about the matter and that's not good. We're really suffering here by the roadside. We have school going children who are now forced to stay with us since we're all homeless. The government should intervene and find a permanent solution to the woes we are going through," said Mr Maina.

NO CONTROVERSY

Contacted, Lamu County Commissioner Irungu Macharia said there is no controversy about the said land since it is genuinely owned by Egerton University.

Mr Macharia said they obeyed a court order to evict the squatters from the land.

"First, there was a court eviction notice. In fact there is no controversy about this. The land genuinely belongs to Egerton University. There was an eviction order from the court after the squatters lost the case.

"We didn't want to be found in contempt of court and that's why we provided security to supervise the eviction. I am aware these people claiming to be squatters have their genuine residential places. My advice is that they should go back to their lands since the one they claim is theirs is rightfully owned by Egerton University," said Mr Macharia.

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