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Squatters get New Year gift of land

Wednesday December 31 2008

Helen Murugi Chege, 66, prays after she was

Helen Murugi Chege, 66, prays after she was handed a paper indicating her plot number at Solio ranch. She is among hundreds of squatters to be resettled under a new Government programme. Photo/MUCHIRI GITONGA 

By MUCHIRI GITONGA

Families evicted from Aberdare Forest two decades ago got a pleasant New Year gift on Wednesday after the Government allocated them plots at Solio ranch.

The squatters turned up in large numbers at Miagayu primary school in Tetu where they were allocated the plots at the ranch that straddles Laikipia and Nyeri North districts.

The exercise was conducted by civil servants led by deputy Central Provincial Commissioner Francis Sila. Mr Sila said that similar exercises had been carried out in Kieni East and Mathira divisions.

The DC said it was the Government’s wish to settle the squatters by January so that their children can start the new term in their new environment.

Squalid life

The squatters, who have been living on road reserves after their eviction from various forests, will be settled on a 15,000-acre piece of land that the Government bought from the owners of the 60,000-acre ranch for Sh1.27 billion.

They will occupy 3,990 plots. Most of the squatters said they were pleased at the prospect of leaving the squalid life behind them and that they will no longer have to rely on hand-outs.

Mr Sila said electricity had been installed in the area and several boreholes had been drilled. The Government had also built roads and seven primary and two secondary schools in the new settlement scheme.

Two police posts, which would also double as chiefs’ offices, and two health centres had also been built in the area.

The joint secretary of the Nyeri Squatters’ Association, Mr Maina Mugo expressed satisfaction with the exercise and thanked top Government officials for resettling the squatters.

“The exercise has of late enjoyed a lot of political goodwill, which has been lacking in the past,” Mr Mugo said.