Mau families in the cold as homes razed

Thursday April 15 2010

By JULIUS SIGEI

Narok County Council askaris (security officers) on Thursday razed houses at the Maasai Mau Forest. Shocked settlers ,who called the Nation, said they thought the evictions had started and wondered why they were being kicked out contrary to the government promise that the process would be carried out in a humane manner.

They said five houses were burnt in the dawn raid which left some of them homeless. “They also took many of our personal effects like farm implements and destroyed maize which had ripened,” said Mr Samuel Koech, a resident.

Mr Koech said that the council askaris had been harassing them and called for the government’s to intervene. He said the area was occupied by the indigenous Ogiek community, adding that it was wrong for the government to kick them out of their ancestral home.
Efforts to get a comment from the county council bosses were unfruitful as their phones went unanswered. However, a government official, who requested not to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the Press, said the settlers have been defying a directive not to put up new structures until the demarcation exercise was completed.

“While I am not vouching for the askaris’ behaviour, it is true that the settlers have been defying orders not to build new houses,” he said. Unlike the other 21 forest blocks of the Mau Complex which have been gazetted and are managed by the Kenya Forest Services, the 46,278-hectare Maasai Mau is trust land managed by the Narok County Council.

It has also emerged that the marking of boundaries, which should have ended last Friday, has stalled due to the hostility of settlers towards the surveyors. On more than one occasion, the settlers kicked the surveyors out of their areas, saying they were interfering with their farms.

Narok South DC Chimwaga Mongo confirmed that there have been difficulties in the exercise. “Indeed the interim coordinating secretariat chairman Hassan Noor Hassan has asked us to go to the ground today to pacify the settlers,” said Mr Mongo. The completion of the survey will pave the way for the launch of the third phase of the restoration of the country’s water tower.