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February 20, 2019

Murkomen urges state to stop evicting forest people

Senator Kipchumba Murkomen at the Boma hotel on June file
Senator Kipchumba Murkomen at the Boma hotel on June file

Elgeyo Marakwet senator Kipchumba Murkomen has asked the state to allow the indigenous Sengwer community to live in Embobut Forest.

The senator said on Sunday he misses life in the forest where his community lived before being evicted by the state. Murkomen was born in Koropkwen inside the forest.

The leader of Majority in the Senate broke his silence about the marginalised hunter-gatherer community whose culture has been disrupted by frequent evictions.

Members of the community were given Sh400,000 compensation to give up forest life and move out as part of state efforts to conserve the 21,000-hectare Embobut forest.

Members of a Marakwet Facebook group on Sunday accused Murkomen and Governor Alex Tolgos of failing to defend the indigenous Sengwer community.

“I miss home [in] Koropkwen. I wish we can go back. And go quick,” Murkomen responded to the Facebook complaints.

The senator said community members are exploring ways of going back to Embobut Forest in places like Sinen, Kewabus, Kessom, Kaptirbai, Kamologon and Kapkok.

Social media users took the senator to task. They asked him why he was in the forefront questioning evictions from Mau Forest but silent when the Sengwer community is subjected to similar removals.

But Murkomen said he and other leaders have intervened to stop Embobut evictions, which he said were worse than those in Mau.“The Embobut case is however bigger than me and bigger than my clan,” Murkomen said.

He said the Sengwer have been painted by social media users as backward and poor people.

"That’s not the case. We are scaling the heights like many of our people in the county. Remove biases and you appreciate everyone," Murkomen said.

He denied misleading the community to accept the Sh400,000 compensation, considered by critics inadequate to buy land and build houses. Governor Tolgos did not respond to accusations of sidelining the community in appointments.

The Sengwer have threatened to petition the UN to compel the government to stop eviction from Embobut Forest. The UN cannot compel goverments to act. 

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