Mau residents feel the heat as eviction looms

Officers patrol at Sierra Leon area in Maasai Mau Forest in Narok County. [Kipsang Joseph/Standard]
Reality has started sinking in for nearly 10,000 families living on land the Government has declared to be part of Mau Forest.

Yesterday morning, The Standard team, which has been camping in the disputed 17,000 acres of land in Narok South, witnessed the despair of settlers as they demolished their homes.

"My family and I decided to remove the iron sheets, wooden poles, window panes, frames and doors to avoid situations that have happened in the past where police burn our houses and we lose building materials," said Kennedy Langat as he continued to carefully dismantle his house.

Although Environment and Forestry Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko issued the eviction orders in July, Rift Valley Regional Commissioner George Natembeya recently gave the families 60 days to vacate the forestland.

SEE ALSO :Mau evictions: Rich fodder for politicians as the poor suffer

Nine days later, the residents are clearly feeling the pressure.

Asked where his family had relocated to, Mr Langat said he had moved to Mauche in the neighbouring Nakuru County to stay with relatives as he awaits further communication from the Government.

"I do not want my family to be brutalised like what happened last year. Many people lost their property in phase one of the eviction from the other disputed land in this area," said Langat.

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As we talked to Langat, loud screams could be heard in the distance.

"Those chants and screams of war are by Kenya Forest Service (KFS) officers who are warning us that this area is a no-go zone for us; that we should pack our belongings and leave. They used similar war cries when they expelled people during phase one of the evictions," Langat said.

SEE ALSO :State to shut down 15 schools in the Mau

Forcibly ejected

The KFS officers have been traversing the vast area known as Sierra Leone and advising the inhabitants to leave before they are forcibly ejected.

The settlers have heeded and the targeted areas in the forest remain deserted. Schools have also been deserted despite a Government directive that they should remain open until the 60-day notice expires

Langat's wife, Rose, a teacher at Kebeneti Primary School, said learning had been disrupted. The Standard established that none of the 15 local schools have re-opened.

Like many other inhabitants, Langat said the land he is living on is legally his and showed us a copy of a title deed for a five-hectare parcel of land to prove ownership.

SEE ALSO :Mau forest evictions in pictures

His wife was also critical of the eviction notice. "The land is here and I consider it mine. I have a title and don't see any problem with the title. It is just like any other title issued to any Kenyan," she said.

Some of the affected villages include Sagamian, Barsuguta, Sebetet, Chebirbeleek, Kapsibilwo and Ogilgei.

Carlos Lemisio, a fourth-year computer science student at Egerton University, said he was yet to resume his studies.

Mr Lemisio revealed that he had been affected by the phase one evictions and was forced to defer his studies on two occasions.

He said he considers the forest to be his home and urged the Government to stop harassing settlers.

SEE ALSO :Mau Evictions: MP Johanna Ngeno, two MCAs arrested

But Lemisio's pleas are bound to fall on deaf ears after the State yesterday reiterated that the eviction of settlers in Narok North and South would go ahead as planned.

Government Spokesperson Cyrus Oguna said the eviction process was legal, adding that the areas being cleared off inhabitants were gazetted lands.

“Eviction in Mau has to continue. Perhaps eviction is not the right word. Relocation is the right word because eviction has a negative connotation. But it is relocation in order to save this country,” said Mr Oguna during a press briefing.

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