Kenya forest dwellers put on notice

August 5, 2009 12:00 am

, LAIKIPIA, Kenya, Aug 5 – The government has put on notice squatters living at the Marmanet and Muchongoi forests in Baringo East and Laikipia West districts respectively, saying they would be evicted.

Through the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) department, the government has issued a seven day vacation notice to the squatters who were allegedly given land at the forest by the previous regime.

Following the notice, the fate of over 10,000 families living in the area hangs in the balance as the government stand firm on its move to evict them from the forest for conservation purposes.

The notice signed by the KFS director David Mbugua says following the invasion and illegal settlement on about 8,000 hectares of the Marmanet forest the government has called on residents to vacate the forest with immediate effect.

The notice says that those who will not have vacated within seven days will be forcefully evicted together with their properties.

Mbugua said KFS was charged by both the Kenyan society and the international community with the task of protecting forests while at the same time ensuring they continue to provide socio-economic and environmental benefits for present and future generations.

The squatters, who were allocated land by the government in 2002, however claim they legally own the land since they were issued with Title Deeds and letters of allotment and therefore vowed not to vacate the area.

The squatters through their spokesman Moses Chuma suspect foul play in the eviction order saying they have received quit notices from some influential businessmen who claim to have bought the land from the forest department.

The families says their eviction from the area they have lived in the last six years was illegal, and called on the government to investigate the business people whom they claim have already issued threatening letters should they fail to leave.

Mr Chuma at the same time accused senior officials in the district of colluding with the un-named business people to fan the eviction.

However, Nyahururu District Commissioner Lucy Mulili regretted that the land was poorly demarcated and assured that justice would be served. She added that a government surveyor would be sent to the area to ensure that forest boundaries were well marked.

“There is a need to dialogue with the settlers before they are evicted from the forest so as to establish those with legal documents, to prove their ownership.”

The government has gazetted the land as part of Marmanet forest and as a reserve area.
However, the residents have vowed to resist the move saying that they had legal documents and letters of allotment which they received from the government when they acquired the land.

“We have nowhere else to call home, and we will stick,” they said.

They appealed to the government to reverse the move as most of the families in the area had no other land.
They threatened to go to court if all else failed.


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