Kenya: Chetambe Hills Land Row Rages on Ahead of Kenyatta Visit

Bungoma Governor Wycliffe Wangamati has dragged President Uhuru Kenyatta into the Chetambe Hills land row, which the Environment ministry has gazetted as forest land, drawing protests from the Tachoni community that calls it their ancestral land.

The gazettement of the 400 hectares of the Chetambe Hills in parts of Maraka and Mihuu wards in Webuye East constituency has been met with an uproar from residents and local leaders.

The residents have expressed fears that they might be left landless after the state converted the area into forest land on July 25.

But Governor Wangamati now says he broached the subject with President Kenyatta last Friday, a matter he expects will be addressed when the Head of State visits the area next week.

"We have agreed with the President that everything else after the gazettement to come to a halt until this matter is solved amicably. Chetambe Hills has a rich historical and cultural attachment to the locals. I want to openly tell our people that there should be no cause for alarm since no one will be evicted from this land. We agreed with the President that when he will be visiting this region he will address this issue," Mr Wangamati told journalists at Satellite Hotel in Webuye town.

The governor said he and President Kenyatta agreed that a team of experts from the county and national governments will be formed to address the matter.

The governor revealed that his father, former nominated Ford Kenya party MP Patrick Wangamati, also owns several hectares of land at Chetambe, which he says were acquired legally.

In his address, Mr Wangamati also asked President Kenyatta to help offset the debts at Nzoia, complete construction of Kanduyi Stadium, renovate Matulo airstrip and help set up the Chwele open-air market as some of the priorities during his visit.

Nation.africa has a list of names of residents who are said to have been compensated by the government.

A section of the land that has been gazetted had been bought by the government for a private developer who was setting up the Webuye pan paper factory back in 1968.

The comments by the governor come after Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang'ula joined locals who had collected 400 signatures to petition the Senate over the matter.

The Chetambe area was the first area where the Luhyas fought the white man at the Chetambe fortress.

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