MP arrested, houses torched and settlers told to leave forest
SEE ALSO :Rift Valley leaders seek talks over MauThe arrest came as the residents accused Kenya Forest Services (KFS) rangers of torching 10 houses at Sebetet village, Sagamian Ward in Sierra Leone, in an effort to make locals leave the area.
Arson claimsThe arson claims were, however, dismissed by Rift Valley Regional Commissioner George Natembeya. Instead, Mr Natembeya blamed the settlers of torching their own houses to try whipping up emotions. “No officer has burnt a house and if that is the current situation, then these people are burning old abandoned structures. It always happens when politicians visit,” said Natembeya. And in what appeared as softening of the strong stance the administrator had initially taken about the evictions, Natembeya yesterday said the families would be allowed to leave the forest land voluntarily. He said the use of force would only apply as a last resort. Natembeya further said the Government had decided that the 15 public schools he had last week said would be shut down be reopened.
SEE ALSO :All set for Mau forest evictions“The Government has resolved to open all the schools so as not to be seen like we don’t care. Children will continue going to the schools as the process of eviction goes on, since the exercise will not be done at a go. It will take us 60 days,” he said in what seemed like a change of hardline stance earlier taken. Last week, Natembeya had said none of the schools would be reopened for the third term, a move that was greatly castigated by a section of politicians opposed to the planned evictions. Yesterday, Natembeya said Ng’eno and Lang’at, who were arrested in the company of other leaders drawn from the local community, attempted to remove a block erected on the road leading to the forest. “They defied an order not to cross into the area that we have zoned-off as a Government forest and engaged officers in a confrontation,” said Natembeya. He declared the area where the Government intends to evict the settlers from a security zone, saying no one would be allowed to set foot in the forest to incite settlers who had been allowed to leave voluntarily. The Standard on the telephone.
Fact-finding missionNg’eno told The Standard he was in the company of Narok Deputy Governor Evalyn Aruasa and two Bomet MPs — Brighton Lang’at (Konoin) and Gideon Koskei (Chepalungu), and were on a fact-finding mission on closure of the 15 schools when they were nabbed. “We were in a convoy heading to Olmekenyu, specifically Kirobon Primary School, to check whether children had reported to school so that we counsel them. But 100km away police stopped and started harassing us,” said Koskei.
Issue politicisedBett’s worry was that the Mau issue had over the years been politicised and residents later exposed to suffering. He said the area had chiefs and other Government officials, an indication that the State recognised it as a settlement. The locals urged the Government to come clean on the cut-line issue instead of having people evicted every year. Natembeya urged the affected people not to leave out of fear, but in acknowledgement that they had encroached the forest. “Phase Two (of evictions) is not just removing people, it entails a lot. We have to erect a fence round the forest, plant trees and get rid of human activities. Eviction will come in as the last resort. As of now, we encourage people to leave voluntarily,” said Natembeya.
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