Kenya: Crisis as 400 Illegal Settlers Block Elephants' Migration

20 January 2021

The government has announced plans to evict some 400 illegal settlers in Voi in a bid to deal with the escalating cases of human-wildlife conflict in the area.

The settlers are said to block the traditional migration routes of elephants at the Tsavo National Park. More than 200 elephants are said to have pitched camp in Sagalla for months in a standoff with the villagers.

Speaking while assessing the extent of the illegal settlement along the Ndara-Bachuma stretch, Voi Deputy County Commissioner Daniel Nduti said the evictions will pave the way for the elephants to move back into Tsavo East National Park.

"The elephants have been using these routes every year to migrate from Tsavo East to West, but human settlements have interfered with their movements," he said. "We've asked them to vacate this area.

Sensitisation meetings are ongoing. Those who will refuse to move out will be forcefully evicted," he declared.

Mr Nduti blamed the constant conflict between humans and wild animals on encroachment on the stretch of land between the standard gauge railway (SGR) line and the highway.

He said some of the settlers have built houses on the underpass, thereby blocking their path.

"The underpasses were created to allow wildlife to pass through. The KWS cannot drive the elephants from the community because there are settlements along the SGR," he said.

Moved to court

It is the third time the government is planning to evict the squatters.

In 2015 when the SGR was being built, the government compensated the families to pave the way for the multibillion-shilling project. It later emerged that the land is a road reserve.

"All these families were compensated but they refused to move out. Last year, we tried to reason with them in vain," he said, adding that the eviction is also part of the government's plan to secure public land from grabbing.

Residents the Nation spoke to refuted claims that they are there illegally. They said they have lived in the area for decades.

"We hear that the government is planning to evict us, but we have no where to go," said one of the settlers, Ms Mary Legishon. She claimed they migrated to the area 30 years ago.

Over 4,000 families are affected by human-wildlife conflict in Marapu, Mwambiti, Kirumbi, Kajire and Talio Nyika villages. They blame the government for doing little to arrest the situation.

The settlers had earlier moved to court to block erection of a Sh265 million electric fence due to a border dispute. The 96-kilometre Mgeno-Maungu-Kasigau fence was meant to stop wildlife from straying from the park.

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