Police officer, residents injured as eviction mission backfires

Squatters at Benmoi farm in Moiben, Uasin Gishu County burn down a vehicle that had transported hired men who were to evict them from the 2098 acre farm. The squatters armed with bows and arrows chased away police officers and hired people who had come to evict them from the farm that is owned by Kibogy Properties Limited. [PHOTOS BY: KEVIN TUNOI/STANDARD]

A policeman and several civilians were seriously injured after an eviction exercise went awry at the expansive Ben-Moi farm in Uasin Gishu County.

Two vehicles were burned as angry residents armed to the teeth chased away the officers overseeing the exercise.

Chaos began on Thursday morning when a private developer backed by police and a group of youth arrived at the expansive 2,098 hectares farm to evict squatters.

Over 800 squatters’ families and Kibogy Properties Limited have been battling for ownership of the land in court making several appeals since 1991 and were awaiting another court ruling on May 4. William Lusweti who relocated to the controversial land in 1948 said they have been in court since 1991. The land was leased to the late Jonathan Kibogy between 1970 and 1985.

“My parents relocated to this farm in 1948 when I was 15 years. In 1970, Kibogy leased the land but the tenure was to expire in 1985. We were puzzled when after that expiry period, he continued to lay claim on the land and even tried to forcibly evict us. We moved to court to seek justice but the case has been dragging at snail pace making life difficult for us,” said Lusweti.

According to Lusweti, the Property Company under the directorship of Kiptoo Kibogy, Kibogy’s heir, flouted the law yet the matter was pending in court.

“The person claiming rightful ownership of this land should produce the title deed and not use government agencies to oppress us,” Lusweti added.

John Gathua another squatter, said the manner in which the police invaded their land is what prompted the fierce retaliation.

“We have lived here all our life, buried our parents here and we will be buried here too. The eviction was illegal because we were not served with any court order,” said Gathua.

Hellen Chepkemboi said her family’s eviction can only be approved by the court or when the government intervenes to give them an alternative land.

“We are the seventh generation here and we need to be recognised and our issues taken seriously. We took many years rehabilitating this farm that was once rocky and uninhabitable,” she said.

However, Mr Kiptoo insisted they bought the land lawfully. He accused the squatters of wanting to assume its ownership using unorthodox means.

“These families were just employed to work in the farm and haven’t paid anything to guarantee ownership. They lost the case in court,” said Kiptoo.

Kiptoo said he together with other individuals escaped death narrowly as they tried to effect the eviction order.