The National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) has condemned the violent eviction of hundreds of residents by police from a disputed piece of land in Makima, Embu County.
The council Wednesday said it was saddened by the inhumane treatment of residents during the eviction.
According to Embu NCCK branch officials, the residents have lived on the land for decades and they have now been forced to camp in public primary schools where they are exposed to cold weather and the risk of contracting Covid-19.
Led by the branch chairman, Bishop Njeru Nyaga, the officials said the government erred when it used police to kick out the residents from the land, which Tana and Athi Rivers Development Authority (Tarda) claims ownership.
No place to stay
"And now that schools are reopening next week, these people will have no place to stay. We call on the government to be responsive to their plight," said Bishop Nyaga.
The officials reminded the government that the residents have their social rights as enshrined in the Constitution and they should be urgently resettled.
"We condemn the forcible eviction with the strongest terms possible," added Bishop Nyaga.
Speaking at Gakwegori village, the officials said the victims are suffering after their houses were pulled down.
Heavily armed police officers descended on Ndunguni, Twanyonyi, Muthithu, Kituneni, Nunga and Mwanyani villages in the expansive Mbeere South Constituency a fortnight ago, accusing the residents of encroaching on 66,000 acres of land belonging to Tarda and pulled down their shops and houses.
During the operation one person was shot and seriously injured while Mbeere South MP Geoffrey King'ang'i and nine journalists who were covering the eviction were arrested and locked up at Matuu Police Station in the neighbouring Machakos County for questioning.
Property worth millions of shillings was also destroyed in the security operation.
The police said they were enforcing a court order which had been obtained by Tarda to evict the residents who had been living and growing crops along the Masinga and Kiambere dams.
On February 16, Tarda issued a notice that required that the residents leave the area immediately.
In the notice, Tarda warned that it would have no option but to evict the residents if they failed to move out of the land.
According to the authority, the notice followed a court order that directed that the residents be evicted to pave way for the demarcation and beaconing of the disputed parcel of land.
Tarda said the order was issued after it won a case against residents after a long legal battle.
The Tarda farm manager, Ronald Makenzie, explained that the land was acquired in 1974 for the building of Masinga Dam, but thereafter the residents invaded it and started using it unlawfully.
"We have documents showing that the land belongs to us but the residents have none," he added.
Mr Makenzie said Tarda and residents had been embroiled in a legal tussle for many years until recently when the Land court in Embu ruled in favour of the authority and issued an eviction order.
Swore not to leave
But the residents insisted that they had settled on the land for decades and swore not to leave.
They claimed that highly influential people who want to grab the land were behind the eviction.
But Mr Makenzie dismissed the claims by the residents as propaganda.
Led by their MP, the residents wondered how they could be thrown out of their own land.
They claimed that they were the ones who gave out portions of their community land for the building of the dams and accused Tarda of mistreating them.