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Kenya

Chaos as squatters fight off forest guards

NYAHURURU, October 16 – Running battles erupted in Marmanet forest Wednesday after more than 400 squatters resisted attempts by forest guards to evict them.

Armed with rungus, swords and arrows, the squatters repulsed the forest officers who had arrived at Igwamiti location, Laikipia West district Wednesday morning to execute an evacuation order.

The squatters, who overpowered the guards, told Capital News that they would not leave the forest because they had valid title deeds for the 4,000 hectares of land they are occupying.

“This land was given to us legally and we have the relevant documents from the registrar of lands. So the quit notice given to us is null and void,” they shouted.

The squatters under the Uaso Narok Settlement Scheme vowed not to exit the area despite the expiry on Tuesday of a 21-day eviction notice issued by the Laikipia West District Forest Service officer Samwel Mukundi.

They in turn accused Mr Mukundi of ignoring a court order restricting him from executing any action on the land until the matter is resolved.

Led by Councillor David Kandagor of Kimoriot Ward, the group claimed that the notice contravened existing laws on the protection of property. They further maintained that they were allocated the land more than ten years ago.

While giving the ultimatum, Mr Mukundi had said that the move was aimed at promoting reforestation, and threatened that legal action would be taken against anyone who defied the orders.

He said the forest risked extinction as a result of charcoal burning, forest fires, illegal logging, community encroachment through illegal grazing and cultivation and warned that the government would take stern measures against suspects.

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He explained that the plans were aimed at mitigating the threats while ensuring the sustainable and continuous flow of economic, social and environmental benefits to the stakeholders by involving them in forest management.

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