• Operation supervised by armed security officers acting on an alleged court order.
• Ruto set to attend burial of former senator Khalwale's first wife in Western on Saturday.
LUKE AWICH AND MATHEWS NDANYI
The eviction of more than 2,000 people from disputed land in Nandi county has sparked a political row despite the existence of a court order that allowed vacation.
Most of the evictees were from the Luhya community. They said they bought the 28 acres in Chepturo village near Kaptobongen in Nandi Central and have lived there for the past 40 years.
But the family of the late Kipkosgei arap Cheptulu says the 57 families illegally invaded the land registered as Nandi/Kapkangani /1371-1384 in the early 1970s. The Cheptulus say the families were squatters. Police officers destroyed the homes on Wednesday night.
Yesterday, Luhya leaders told DP William Ruto not to set foot in the region before he ensures the families are returned to their homes.
Nandi Governor Stephen Sang, however, warned leaders against politicising the matter, adding it must be handled with care — devoid of incitement. He said the dispute had been in court since 1979 and a court order permitted the eviction.
Sang said that in an attempt to resolve the matter amicably, government officials led by Lands CS Faridah Karoney had attended a meeting at the farm and agreed that either the government identifies land to resettle the families or considers compensating the landowner.
“It’s unfortunate the security teams carried out the eviction before the options floated were considered,” Sang said.
He asked the government to ensure justice is done to both the landowner and the evictees and directed the county disaster management teams to offer humanitarian aid to the families.
His statement came after Western leaders, led by Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala, questioned the silence of local leaders on the issue. They said the land must be reverted to the evictees.
“I don’t want to mince my words on this. I want to tell the Deputy President: ‘You’re not welcome in our area if our people are being evicted from Nandi,” Malala said at a press conference.
Also present were MPs Caleb Amisi (Saboti), Florence Mutua (Busia), George Aladwa (Makadara), Geoffrey Osotsi (nominated) and ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna.
“Why are the local political leaders quiet about this matter? We know they fear the surging number of members of the Luhya community in the county,” Mutua said.
Ruto has been a frequent visitor in Western and is expected to attend the burial of former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale’s first wife in Ikolomani on Saturday.
Osotsi said the community will not tolerate the inhumane manner the eviction was carried out. “We don’t want to have friends only when they come to look for votes,” he said.
Sifuna questioned the validity of the court order, saying it might have been forged. “We know the issues of land. There is only one chairman of land-grabbing in this country.”
Amisi said, “What happened to the implementation of the law that guarantees one ownership of land if you have stayed for 12 years? These people have stayed here for over 40 years.”
The leaders said churches and schools were also demolished and appealed to President Uhuru Kenyatta to intervene saying a number of KCSE and KCPE candidates risk missing their national exams.
Sang described the MPs as political scavengers and busybodies who should confine their backward politics to their homes.
“I urge residents of the area to resist any attempts to incite them and instead continue living in harmony as the matter is resolved,” he said.
The dispute pitted Cheptulu’s sons Sammy Kiprotich and Clement Lagat against Pius Isiaga and 57 others.
Isiaga argued they had valid agreements on the purchase with the original owner. But Kiprotich and Lagat said they are registered administrators of the estate of their father and dismissed claims the land was sold.
Justice Mwangi Njoroge of the Environment and Lands Court in Kitale issued the orders that led to the eviction.
He upheld six previous orders to have the families evicted because they could not produce evidence of ownership. The first order was issued in 1979 by a magistrate’s court in Eldoret.
(Edited by F'Orieny)