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February 16, 2019

Residents walk out on NLC, say they should be let into Embobut Forest

National Land Commission Chairman Muhamad Swazuri addresses locals in Tangul, Marakwet East on Thursday/STEPHEN RUTTO
National Land Commission Chairman Muhamad Swazuri addresses locals in Tangul, Marakwet East on Thursday/STEPHEN RUTTO

Marakwet residents who expected to be allowed to resettle in Embobut Forest stormed out of a National Land Commission meeting at Tangul in Marakwet East.

NLC chairman Muhammad Swazuri urged them to stop encroaching on the forest.

Swazuri gave a 14-day notice to residents who have resettled in gazetted forest lands to move out.

About 2,900 squatters were evicted and compensated in 2013.

Swazuri’s remarks infuriated hundreds of residents who turned up for the Thursday baraza hoping to be allowed to move back to the forest.

He said the residents do not have valid reasons to resettle in the forest after receiving their payouts in 2013.

“It is illegal for you to return to the forest. But you can graze your livestock, harvest honey and fetch firewood from the forest,” Swazuri said.

Residents who were members of the indigenous hunter-gatherer Sengwer community insisted to be allowed to resettle in the forest and graze their animals.

Joseph Kaptuka, 75, said members of the Sengwer community have petitioned the government to resettle in their ancestral home.

“We attended meetings in Nanyuki and Naivasha and developed a roadmap for us to go back to the forest, but Kenya Forest Service officers are still harassing us,” he said.

Kaptuka questioned why NLC is ordering the community to keep off the forest, yet it agreed to let the minority community use it for economic activities without cutting down trees in August.

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