NYAHURURU, Kenya, Feb 27 – Two people were seriously hurt on Thursday amid clashes between youth and more than 200 squatters armed with crude weapons, who were fighting their eviction from Sharmanek forest.,
A lands surveyor and a man sent to chase the squatters from an 87 hectare piece of land were badly injured in the fighting, as the squatters said they would not vacate the land they had been living on for the last six years.
The duo were rushed to the Nyahururu District Hospital for treatment.
Trouble started when the youth were ferried to fence the land by a businessman who is believed to have bought it, but irate squatters armed themselves with arrows, pangas and rungus to fight off the workers.
The residents also destroyed fencing posts worth thousands of shillings and other materials that were expected to be used in the exercise, moments before police officers arrived at the scene to contain the situation.
The residents through their spokesman Moses Chuma said that the youth who had been contracted to fence the land were ferried there on Thursday morning, ready for the job.
The squatters accused the district Forest Service Officer Samwel Mukundi of instigating the eviction and vowed not to leave the area at whatever cost.
Under the auspices of Urumwe-Mikaro Self Help Group, the families called on the government to investigate the purchase of land by the businessman.
“We have been receiving death threats and want this issue investigated,” they said.
The squatters, who were allocated land by the government in 2002, claim that they own the land legally and possess title deeds and letters of allotment.
“We suspect foul play because we received a quit notice from some influential businessmen, who claims to have bought the land from the forest department!”
The Nyahururu District Officer Evans Ketenyi has ordered the local chief to scrutinise the documents and find out if they were genuine before an eviction is done.
The government has gazzetted the land as part of the Marmanet Forest, which has been marked for conservation.