Macalder residents move to court to stop eviction from land gazetted as forest reserve

Macalder residents have asked the court to quash the decision by the government. [iStockphoto]

The battle for the gold-rich Macalder Kanyarwanda in Migori County has taken a new twist after a section of residents moved to court challenging the gazettement of 6,165 acres of land in the area as a forest area.

In a petition filed at Migori’s Lands and Environment Court, the residents have asked the court to quash the decision by the government, claiming the land is their ancestral property.

They have sought eight orders including an order to bar the government from evicting them from the parcel of land. They also want the court to declare that their right to a clean and healthy environment has been denied.

According to the residents, the actions of the government have exposed them to mental torture and uncertainties.

The residents who live in fear of facing eviction claimed no public participation was conducted before the gazette notice was made public.

The petition has been filed by 40 residents on behalf of other affected families.  “We were just informed that we would be due for eviction in the near future,” Kephas Ojuka, a resident said.

Over 20, 000 households in the Macalder area which is largely a gold and copper mining area have been affected by the gazette notice but they said they they have nowhere to go.

Maurice Ong'ala, a resident of Migori claimed that if the move by the government to evict residents from the land is not reversed, it will lead to loss of livelihoods, homes and education.

“Health facilities will be lost and the right to access healthcare. This will take away our economic activities and farmland. It will also take away our right to worship and that of receiving government services and lead to massive job loss,” Ong’ala said.

According to Ong’ala, they consider the government’s move as an attempt to disenfranchise them. Residents want the government to give them title deeds instead of chasing them away from their ancestral land.

In a gazette notice seen by The Standard, the government declared that 2494.95 Ha (6, 165 acres) situated approximately 25 kilometres North West of Migori town had been gazetted as a forest area.

According to the gazette notice, the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Forestry Sopian Tuya had indicated that the boundaries of the area mapped as forest land are more particularly delineated, edged on boundary plan number 175/517.

Nyatike MP Tom Odege, in a statement on September 20, 2023, alleged a plot by some people and some players in the gold trade to have an interest in the Macalder gold and copper belts.