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January 17, 2019

Compensate us before we leave public land, Lamu IDPs tell state

Homes of Lamu terror IDPs have been accused of grabbing public land /CHETI PRAXIDES
Homes of Lamu terror IDPs have been accused of grabbing public land /CHETI PRAXIDES

Lamu residents displaced by terror attacks have denied they encroach on private land, saying they have nowhere else to go until the government resettles them.

More than 400 IDPs are staying at Katsaka Kairu camp in Witu, Lamu West, for a year. They say allegations of encroachment are meant to justify their forced eviction.

A week ago, Katsaka Kairu chief Karisa Kaviha accused the IDPs of grabbing public land and setting up residences.

Initially there were about 2,000 IDPs in the camp but only 400 are left.

The camp was declared closed last October and the government ordered all the IDPs to go back to their homes, assuring them of security. They have refused to leave without compensation, which has been refused.

Lamu county commissioner Gilbert Kitiyo said enough measures had been put in place to ensure IDPs safety.

Residents of Pandanguo, Jima, Poromoko, Kakathe, Maleli and Nyongoro villages fled to the camp after a series of al Shabaab raids left several people dead and houses torched.

Others were ordered to move to the camp to make way for Operation Linda Boni to flush out militants from Boni Forest.

Despite last year’s government directive, many IDPs especially those from Nyongoro and Maleli have refused to leave the camp, fearing for their lives.

Those who spoke to the Star yesterday said they are aware the camp and surrounding areas are public lands. But they said they will remain in the camp until the government compensates them for time wasted and for all losses they incurred back home.

“We haven’t grabbed or encroached on any land. That is a very bad rumor. But we know they don’t want us here and will do anything to get us out. We are not going anywhere until we are compensated,” Ramadhan Kahindi said.

The government says it has no plans to compnsate the IDPs.

They accuse the government of treating them unfairly while other displaced persons across the country have been compensated and even resettled.

Life in the camp is tough as the government has left them on their on for a long time. Relief food distribution was stopped shortly after the camp was declared closed.

"We have to wake up very early and go looking for food in far away places," Mariam Kachimbi said.

"They refused to give us food when we refused to go back home and we are really suffering. The truth is, we have nothing to go back to."

"We lost all our crops and had our homes were vandalised while we stayed in camp. You can’t tell us to go back home. Which home?"

Operation Linda Boni has been underway for three years, since September 2015. Residents say it has failed but security officers say it is largely successful and onging.

Last week, however, five KDF soldiers died after their vehicle t ran over an explosive on the Kiunga-Sankuri road, Lamu East.

Ten others suffered serious injuries. KDFpublic affairs officer Paul Njuguna said the soldiers were on a humanitarian civil assignment to fetch and distribute water to residents.

KDF said the explosive was probably planted by al Shabaab.

The IED attack came less than three weeks after six KDF officers died in a similar manner on Kwa Omollo Bridge, Lamu East.

On July 5, 10 police officers were injured after their vehicles ran over an explosive likely to have been planted by militants between Handaro and Sangailu.

On February 25, soldiers on a routine patrol foiled an  IED attack on their convoy on Hulugho-Galmagalla road near the Kenya-Somalia border.

The attacks have disrupted life in many parts of Lamu where sometimes hospitals and schools are closed for long periods.

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