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165 families in the cold after houses razed in land row

RIFT VALLEY
By Fred Kibor | March 19th 2020

Some of the houses that were burned at Kasagur village in Marakwet East following a land row that has left 65 families homeless.[Fred Kibor, Standard]

At least 165 families have been rendered homeless in Marakwet East Sub-county after their houses were razed in a land ownership dispute.

Tension remains high in two villages as the affected families fled the village for fear of further attacks.

Some of the families are reportedly camping at Chesongoch Catholic Church as well as Kabetwa and Chesongoch trading centres.

In the first attack, police officers and members of one of the two clans fighting over a parcel of land are said to have destroyed houses at Ketut village in a bid to kick their rivals out of the disputed land.

But as soon as the police left, members of the aggrieved clan allegedly retaliated by raiding Kasugur village, where they reportedly burnt down 100 houses. They are also said to have destroyed food crops.

One of those affected, Moses Cheboi, told The Standard yesterday the dispute has been there for many years.

“The conflict between Kasagur and Kapsiran clans over land has been with us for several decades now. In November last year, a court order sanctioning the eviction was issued. Later, the police used the order to set fire on houses belonging to members of one of the clans. However, the destruction of property witnessed during this second eviction bid is major,” he said.

Mr Cheboi, while faulting the police for not allowing local elders to arbitrate the matter, said a humanitarian crisis was looming now that hundreds of people have been left homeless and poor.

“Such issues as land disputes should be left to the traditional council of elders known as Osis. There have been many instances the elders have successfully arbitrated and settled such cases amicably,” said Mr Cheboi.

Mike Kirop, a member of one of the clans, said the dispute was getting worse by the day and asked the government to take over the disputed parcel.

“As we speak now, the entire Kasagur village has been razed. Many people have been forced to seek refuge in local churches and trading centres. But to stop more conflict, the contested property should be declared public land and turned into a conservation area or the government can use it whichever way it pleases,” opined Mr Kirop.

Area OCPD Benjamin Kitili defended the action by the police, saying they were carrying out a lawful eviction order. “The officers were only enforcing a court order and had issued them with a notice about their impending eviction from the suit property.”

He added: “The order was carried out without causing harm to the people and the structures demolished were only five. However, reaction by one clan saw them destroy houses and other property belonging to members of the other clan.”

“The rule of law must prevail. Local communities are encouraged to engage each other to resolve some of these disputes,” said the OCPD.

Area MCA John Lochaa said elders and church leaders will lead reconciliation efforts between the two clans to ensure peace prevails.

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