Relief as NLC halts squatter evictions in Mau and Embubut forests

Relief as NLC halts squatter evictions in Mau and Embubut forests

Communities living on Mau and Embubut forests can now heave a sigh of relief after the National Land Commission stopped the ongoing evictions by Kenya Forest Service (KFS).

This came after a two day consultative meeting on ‘resolving the tenure and conservation through dialogue’ was held in at a Naivasha hotel.

While issuing the order, NLC Chairman Mohammed Swazuri also directed the squatters to stop any operations on the forest land saying that NLC would be meeting with all the government agencies in two weeks time to harmonize their work.

“We have directed that the state agencies stop the ongoing eviction on communities living in forest land so that we can have a common approach on this issue,” Swazuri said.

Swazuri who addressing the press, said that the move was aimed at resolving the conflict between the government and the forest communities adding that all they were seeking were immediate, medium and long term solutions to the forest issues so as to improve the current forest cover from seven to ten percent.

Swazuri also asked parliament to urgently enact the community land bill to help resolve issues of forests that are currently lying on public land.

Also present was Professor Gitile Naituli a commissioner with the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) who termed the ongoing evictions as uncoordinated.

Naituli pointed that the evictions were causing anxiety and tension and called for a study by NLC on all degazzetted land since 1980, claiming that many politicians had benefited illegally.

He further proposed the creation of a water tax which should be levied on all water users with the funds used to conserve the forests and empower the communities protecting them.

His sentiments were echoed by one elder from Embubut forest Dickson Rotich, who termed the evictions as illegal.

“We are deeply concerned by the inhumane manned that the Kenya Forest Service is undertaking the evictions but we hope that such meetings will address the issue,” Rotich lamented

“This eviction started back in 1988 and we have been treated like IDPs yet we have conserved this forest better that KFS,” complained another elder Paul Kiptuget.