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Residents accuse Kenya Wildlife Service rangers of torture as poor relations worsen

WESTERN
By Ignatius Odanga | February 2nd 2017
Kizito Maluti speaking to The Standard on how he was beaten, arrested and hospitalized when he was found walking in the forest at Ivakale village in Shinyalu-Kakamega County.

The bad blood between Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) rangers in Kakamega Forest and Ivakale and Matopeni residents has threatened to spill over.

Locals say despite being allowed to access the forest for firewood and pasture, they were still being harassed by the rangers.

Rangers on patrol were recently attacked in Ivakale, leaving one nursing serious injuries. More than 30 people are said to have suffered injuries at the hands of KWS officers.

Consequently, a meeting was called last week to find ways to end the hostilities, but KWS officers did not show up.

Yesterday, local residents said they would no longer allow the rangers to harass them. They claimed some KWS officers had turned the forest into a cash cow.

One resident, Alex Odali, said he was a victim of torture by KWS rangers.

Mr Odali told The Standard he was walking home with his cows when he met officers on patrol. According to him, they ordered him to kneel down and raise his hands.

"Then they told me to get up and we went inside the forest. I was blindfolded and beaten ruthlessly on every part of my body," he said, adding that the rangers demanded Sh40,000 from his family to secure his release.

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"My family was able to raise only Sh10,000, which was given to the rangers before they released me."

Odali reported the incident at Muhonje Police Station and his matter was booked under Occurrence Book number 14. He also filled out a P3 form for chest and rib injuries.

Since then, Odali said, he has been receiving threats from the KWS officers who attacked him and nothing has been forthcoming from the police.

"They (rangers) have been asking my friends of my whereabouts. I am living in fear," he said.

Joyce Muchiti, another resident, revealed how she was arrested at home and taken to the forest.

"I was beaten until I lost consciousness. They (rangers) called for a vehicle that took me to Kakamega General Hospital," she said.

HORROR TALES

Sapharinos Muyonga and Stephen Alusiola also had horror tales of what they went through at the hands of KWS personnel. They both said they had suffered internal injuries. 

"We were on our way to the market to share money we had been paid for doing casual jobs when we met the KWS officers. They inflicted injuries on our backs," Mr Muyonga said.

But Fredrick Ojwang of KWS denied the claims, saying: "I am not aware of such happenings anywhere near the forest and if locals are being harassed and tortured, then our officers are not the ones doing it."

He said the local were merely maligning his officers' names even though he admitted that Ivakale and Matopeni residents had been allowed access to the forest.

He asked the victims of brutality to seek legal redress.

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