More than 400 families at Athinai village in Rongai will be homeless this Christmas after their houses were flattened following an eviction order by a Nakuru court.
The residents were woken up at 4am by the roar of five bulldozers and a battery of police officers who had been deployed to ensure the court order was enforced.
One resident, James Edan, said he was preparing to leave for work when the lights suddenly went off in the entire village.
“I thought it was a normal power outage but realised that something was amiss when the bulldozers moved past my house,” said Edan.
The heavy bulldozers shook the ground, waking up the residents, majority of whom were deep asleep before the demolition started.
The residents said they had not been alerted about the demolitions. It was only after they scampered out of their houses that the security team and the auctioneer contracted to conduct the eviction informed them that they were about to lose their houses.
“There has been a case in court between us and our employer. We were however not aware that the matter had been closed and a decision to evict us made,” said Edan.
The families have been working in Majani Mingi, Athinai and Lomolo sisal estates all owned by a Harris Horn, a Greek national who set up the over 3,500 acre plantation in the 1960s.
Initially, Mr Horn had put up nearly 100 houses for farm workers. But as the workers’ families grew, some constructed additional houses on the farm.
This prompted the farm owner to move to court seeking an eviction order for the additional houses. The court granted the orders on October 16 this year, and the eviction squad moved in yesterday.
The residents pleaded in vain with the police and the auctioneer to give them more time. Some attempted to resist but were overpowered as the bulldozers started flattening the houses.
“We don’t dispute that the land is not ours. However there is a humane way of handling this matter. They should have given us a three days notice for us to move,” said Margaret Apurwa.
The families, some who have spent their entire lives in the sisal farm, watched helplessly as their houses came down. Five churches were also brought down.
“We leave the estate with nothing and have nowhere to go,” said Apurwa.
Affected families said vital documents such school and birth certificates, as well as marriage certificates, were lost during the demolitions.
The auctioneer confirmed that the villagers had not been served with an eviction notice, but argued that they were aware of the ongoing court proceedings and the ruling.
“The court order was issued on October 16 this year in the presence of their lawyer and the farm owner. It was the responsibility of their lawyer to inform and advise them accordingly,” said John Ngunji, the chairman of Tango Auctioneers.
Rongai OCPD Japhet Kioko supervised the eviction.
“Our main responsibility was to ensure that the eviction order was enforced peacefully,” he said.
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