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February 21, 2018

Embobut evictions go on despite activists’ outcry

Some of the houses at Kamoyokwo village at Embobut forest burnt by Kenya Forest Service guards on  Jan 17 2014.Photo/Stanley Magut
Some of the houses at Kamoyokwo village at Embobut forest burnt by Kenya Forest Service guards on Jan 17 2014.Photo/Stanley Magut

Marakwet East deputy commissioner Stephen Sangolo yesterday said security agencies will continue with eviction of illegal settlers in Embobut forest despite outcry by human rights activists.

Sangolo said security agencies are currently carrying out an operation to smoke out armed bandits and illegal settlers using the forest as a hideout.

He said the criminals are mixing with Sengwer community to engage in illegal activities, making it difficult for security agencies to differentiate between the two.

“Security officers will continue smoking out anyone who is in the forest illegally. We will ensure that we get rid of illegal loggers, land speculators and cattle rustlers,” Sangolo said.

He dismissed claims that Sengwer community was being evicted and their houses burned down by security officers, saying families living in the forest were compensated in 2014 and moved out.

The administrator dismissed reports by civil society groups that security agencies are violating human rights in the ongoing evictions, telling them to keep off the operation.

He told Amnesty International, KNHCR, National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders and Katiba Institute to go to the ground and establish the truth instead of writing reports in the comfort of their offices.

“Community members who claim their houses have been destroyed should come out and make official complaints,” he said.

“On Wednesday, human right officers came here and sat outside our offices and called their offices in Nairobi saying they are on the ground. We ask them to be ethical,” he added.

The administrator said the police are investigating the death of a Sengwer community member killed in the forest on Tuesday.

His remarks were quickly rubbished by local human rights activists led by Wilfred Kihara. They said evictions were forceful and targets the indigenous community and not criminals as claimed by the county official.

Kihara said the Sengwer community have gone back to the forest after receiving Sh410,000 as compensation from the state, saying the payouts were inadequate for evictees to buy land and resettle elsewhere.

 KFS North Rift head of operation Stephen Chesa said the evictions will continue despite the suspension of Sh3.6 billion for conservation of Cherangany and Mount Elgeon Water towers on Wednesday.


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