Families spend night in the cold as county demolishes houses

Remains of one of the houses demolished at Moiben on Monday. Affected families have accused the county administration of disobeying court orders. [Stephen Rutto, Standard]

Several families were left homeless on Monday after their houses were demolished by people suspected to be county enforcement officers at Moiben Trading Centre.

At least eight houses were brought down even as homeowners protested that they had not been given notice of impending demolitions. 

Affected residents said they were allotted land by the State in 1996.

Julius Ajira, whose house was demolished, said a team of county enforcement officers arrived at around 11am supervised by area ward administrator Moses Kangogo.

“I have a wife and six children and we had nowhere else to go. We all slept out in the cold,” he said.

Trouble started in 2014 when the residents challenged the county in court over the ownership of the land, where their houses stood. The case is yet to be determined.

“The county government had claimed the land we are occupying belonged to it, but we went to court. The Eldoret Chief Magistrates Court is yet to give a ruling, but we secured a temporary injunction stopping the county from taking the land pending the ruling,” said Mr Ajira.

Restrained county

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A court order issued by the Eldoret court on February 19 (Case No.20 of 2019) restrained the county and its agents from carrying out any activity on the land.

But two weeks ago, unknown persons entered the land before sunrise and sprayed an eight-acre maize farm belonging to some of the families with a weed killer.

Then on Monday, the demolitions began.

Disregarding orders

Residents are now accusing the county of disregarding court orders.

“We are asking the county to respect the law and allow the courts to give a direction on this matter,” said Ajira.

They said besides the destruction of crops, property worth millions of shillings was destroyed in the demolitions.

"Those who carried out the demolitions could not explain why they were doing it," said Hudson Chalo.

Many of the affected residents are yet to quantify losses incurred. “My young children aged two and five years are suffering. We managed to salvage a few items but some of them were destroyed,” said Sheila Chebet.

Isaac Wafula, a local peace committee chairman, urged the county administration to negotiate with the residents instead of resorting to forcible evictions.

But Mr Kangogo, the ward administrator said to have supervised the demolitions, said they had nothing to do with the land dispute.

He claimed the demolished houses were illegal structures built without approval from the physical planning department.

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Eldoret Chief Magistrates Court