NONVIOLENCE

Forest service to train in humane Mau evictions

Past evictions marked with brutality that also fuelled forest destruction and resentment

In Summary

• KNHCR and Forest Service to work with communities, train in handling evictions without violence.

• Many families, mainly in the Mau, were forcefully evicted. Some people were beaten, houses and property torched.

Residents help an evicted man who was attacked by Kenya Forest Service officers kicking out illegal settlers from Mau Forest on July 19, 2018.
MANHANDLED: Residents help an evicted man who was attacked by Kenya Forest Service officers kicking out illegal settlers from Mau Forest on July 19, 2018.
Image: KIPLANG'AT KIRUI

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and Kenya Forest Service have partnered to prevent human rights abuses during forest evictions.

Through the partnership funded by the UNDP, officers from the two organisations will be trained in humane ways to deal with affected communities and avoid repeats of past brutal evictions.

The organisations admitted inhumane acts, such as beating and torching property, had taken place during some evictions.

“In the past we had conflict and disregard of human rights in forest exercises but we have moved on and we now have a healthy environment for all,” Conservator of forests David Chege said.

Initially, he said, they had disagreed with KNHCR on how best to handle evictions, but now they were on the same side of nonviolence.

KNCHR chief executive officer Dr Bernard Mogesa said they had developed a training manual for staff from both organisations and communities.

He said issues of human rights and community participation would be part of the training.

“We shall train staff from the Kenya Forest Service and neighbouring communities on respecting human rights so we can achieve 10 per cent forest cover," the CEO  said on Thursday.

He said violent evictions led to more forest destruction.

“UNDP is providing financial and technical support and we are confident forest evictions will be conducted differently,” he said.

Senior deputy chief conservator of forests Peter Waweru said a technical team had been formed to work with the rights organisation.

He attributed some problems in forest conservation to pressure from neighboring communities, hence, the need for training.

“In the past the Kenya Forest Service has been seen by communities as the tool of victimisation but under this programme this will definitely change,” Waweru said.

After the training, forest rangers across the country would be able to better engage communities without using force, which fuelled more conflict, he said

(Edited by V. Graham)