Squatters and soldiers clash over land
By Fred Kibor | April 13th 2016
A confrontation is looming between over 600 squatters and Department of Defence (DoD) in Eldoret over land ownership.
Trouble started early this month when the squatters planted on a 30-acre piece of land, but soldiers from the Kenya Ordinance Factories Corporation (KOFC), under DoD, uprooted the sprouting maize and later replanted on the same plot sparking protests.
Infuriated by the move, the squatters turned rowdy and pelted the soldiers with stones, injuring one of them.
The officers returned to the farm and replanted on over 400 acres the squatters have been tilling, after having uprooted sprouting maize seedlings.
When The Standard visited the disputed KapDouglas land near the KOFC at Maili Tisa, the squatters watched helpless as soldiers driving tractors backed by others on army lorries descended on the remaining pieces of land planting maize to the doorsteps of squatters.
At a meeting convened by Turbo Deputy County Commissioner John Kinjo and area MP Elisha Busienei to resolve the land issue, emotions ran high as the squatters narrated how the soldiers have been harassing them since the Government compulsorily acquired the land in the 1970s.
"This is our land and our ancestors are buried here. We have suffered enough and the Government should settle this matter to ensure we live normal lives," protested Mzee Shadrack Birech.
He said they were shocked by the DoD action to replant their fields and wondered where they will get food to feed their families and supplement their income.
Job Kitur accused the soldiers of spreading propaganda against them to enable DoD continue holding the huge chunk of land as they languish in poverty.
"They should surrender the land to us to till to get our daily bread. They should also integrate us because we are their neighbours who welcomed them here," said Kitur.
Kenya Farmers Association North Rift Director Kipkorir Menjo, who also attended the meeting, called on the Government to immediately resolve the matter.
He criticised the soldiers for replanting on the land the squatters had already planted on.
The leaders called for calm among the residents, but maintained that the squatters should continue tilling the land they previously cultivated and leave the 30-acre field to DoD.
"I am calling on the squatters to be calm as we resolve this matter. I will personally take the matter to the DoD headquarters and to the National Land Commission for action," Mr Busienei.
And Mr Kinjo said he wanted an amicable solution reached soon, and the cordial relationship the DoD and the squatters have enjoyed for long to continue.
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