Nandi evictees living under deplorable conditions on a road reserve
-TITUS TOO and FRED KIBOR
| Aug 6th 2013 | 3 min read
By TITUS TOO and FRED KIBOR
Nandi, Kenya: It has been eight years of despair for members of Ogiek and Ndorobo communities who were evicted from a government forest in Nandi East district.
They have been living under deplorable conditions on a road reserve at Cherobon area in Tinderet.
They have nowhere to bury their dead and some opt to secretly inter their relatives in nearby thickets in the cover of darkness and away from prying eyes of government agents.
Poverty has ravaged the over 460 families since 2005 when they were kicked out of Serengonik forest.
Both the aged and the young have been under frequent attacks of malaria, pneumonia and other respiratory infections.
“I have buried three children in the forest because I had no alternative,” says Sally Koech, one of those evicted.
Koech claimed her children – Michelle Cherop, Victor Kiptoo, and Clara Chepkoech – succumbed to malaria.
The terrain is steep, temperature too low and when it rains, the squatters are exposed to more harsh conditions.
“We have been forgotten by the government. This time round, they should consider giving us alternative settlement,” said Koech.
She said they cannot afford medicare and that they often use herbal medicine extracted from in the nearby forest.
She says that due to rampant poverty, primary school dropout was escalating and young girls were being married off at tender age in the hope of escaping the misery.
“Girls here are married off for free because families can neither afford to pay dowry nor organise ceremonies for negotiations,” says Rebecca Murei.
She said they are forced to work in farms owned by the rich in the nearby settlement areas.
She said children and the elderly lack proper clothing and their shelters are also in pathetic state.
Paul Sitienei, a member of the Ndorobo community, said they have been waiting in vain as a task force formed to address the plight of squatters is yet to act.
William Buigut, the Ndorobo spokesman, said the ongoing rain pounding the region was exposing the families to high risks of disease infection.
The evicted families now peg their hopes on the Nandi County government.
However, Nandi deputy governor Dominic Biwot admitted that the resettlement of the evictees was a challenge that had been inherited by the new county government.
“We hope that the National Land Commission speeds up the process that will enable counties establish land boards to assist in resettling forest evictees. There are landless people in Nandi who were moved out in other forests, including Ngatipkong and Kosabei,” said Biwot.
The deputy governor added that the resettlement of the evictees had been approved by the former parliament but the challenge was in identifying an alternative land for them.
Biwot said there was need to move with speed to ensure the affected families get their constitutional right of settlement to enable them live like other Kenyans.
In Elgeyo/Marakwet, the script is the same with more than 450 squatters evicted from the Elgeyo forest in Keiyo district more than 15 years ago living under deplorable conditions on the edge of Kerio escarpment.
They said the government has neglected them and were living in abject poverty since all they owned was razed when the security forces descended on their Kapkore village.
Mr Paul Cheptaiket, the chairman of Kapkore forest squatters said they were subjected to inhumane acts during their eviction.
Mr Chepataiket said where they are settled currently, no farming activity is allowed and if one is found cutting a tree, the punishment is severe.
The government evicted the squatters in the late 1990s from the expansive Elgeyo forest which forms part of the Cherangany water tower in bid to reclaim more than 500 acres that the residents had illegally acquired.
But the squatters have been trooping back to their former lands claiming they do not have anywhere else to go to. They say the land was their birthright.
Before eviction, a task force report said the area was initially inhabited by 14 families which have since increased rapidly thereby causing enormous environmental degradation.
However Cheptaiket says they were evicted from their ancestral land, which was inhabited by their forefathers.
He said the forest beacons are clearly marked and accused the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) of arbitrarily annexing their land.
Keiyo sub-county assistant commissioner Moses Lilan said a task force was formed to look into the issue in a bid to relocate and settle the families.
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