IDPs evicted from site of stalled dam

IDPs who had been occupying part of the Itare Dam land rummage through what was once their houses after the Government destroyed them. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

The Government has evicted at least 1,000 families that were living near the stalled multi-billion shilling Itare Dam project in Nakuru County, and destroyed their structures. 

Construction of the Sh30 billion dam stalled after the contractor, CMC Deravena, filed for bankruptcy in Italy in December last year.

The dam was expected to provide more than a million people with water.

Armed police officers descended on an IDP camp on the site yesterday morning and pulled down the structures constructed using polythene bags, sticks and canvas.

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Some 1,278 families were left homeless following the operation that lasted about two hours.

The officers ordered them to vacate the area within Kuresoi South Constituency.

By the time The Standard team arrived at the site, women were busy rummaging through the remains of what used to be their houses, as men converged in small groups to chart the way forward. Oblivious of what was going on, children continued to play around the debris.

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The displaced persons said when they saw the area administration officials going to the village in a convoy of vehicles, they first thought the Government had finally remembered to address their plight, but they were wrong.

Simeon Cheruiyot, one of those affected, said the officers arrived at around 6:30am and ordered them to remove their belongings before starting to demolish makeshift houses they had been occupying for two years.

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"The officers asked us to collect what was relevant from our makeshift houses and leave as they wanted to demolish the camp," he said.

He said the officers informed them the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) did not want to see the polythene bags used to make the makeshift houses.

Mr Cheruiyot said no notice asking them to either use other materials in making the makeshift homes or vacate the camp had been issued.

"We were shocked," he said.

The officers, he said, informed them that they had failed to comply with a Nema ban on plastic bags.

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Stephen Kiprotich, another resident, said the Government should address their plight.

Mr Kiprotich said the Government should show them a place to settle before forcefully evicting them, adding that they should have been compensated.

He said the Government was using the ban on plastic bags to ensure they leave the site.

Anderson Rono said they had decided to walk to Nairobi to seek an audience with President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto.

Mr Rono added that the Government forcefully evicted them without addressing their issues.

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He said they had lost everything, including their documents, and that they did not know where to go.

Margaret Rotich, a mother of five, said: "We need to know whether the Government recognises us as human beings or monkeys."

She said they had no place to go and vowed not to leave the camp. She wondered why their peace was disturbed yet the project had since stalled.

Nakuru County Commissioner Erastus Mbui said his office was aware of the forceful eviction.

"I'm aware of the operation to evict the people. They are sitting on land meant for dam construction and had been given the notice to vacate," he said.

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