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Court throws out Mau forest children's eviction case

Friday October 25 2019

Sebetet Centre in Maasai Mau Forest

Sebetet Centre in Maasai Mau Forest. It is one of the 15 community learning centres earmarked for demolition in the second phase of Maasai Mau evictions. PHOTO |FRANCIS MUREITHI |NATION MEDIA GROUP 

GEORGE SAYAGIE
By GEORGE SAYAGIE
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The Environment and Land Court in Narok has thrown out a case by 35 lawyers and a lobby group seeking to stop the government from violating the rights of children caught up in the Mau Forest eviction.

The petitioners filed a suit challenging the eviction on grounds that it affects the rights of children in government schools within the forest.

They also argued that the eviction was done in an inhumane manner and should therefore be stopped.

JURISDICTION

However, Justice Mohammed Kullow noted that the court lacks jurisdiction to hear and determine the matter.

He said the petition seeks enforcement of fundamental rights to education, healthcare, prenatal and post-natal care, and the right to birth certificates and other documents of civil registry, which are best handled by the human rights division of the High Court.

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"Under Article 150 of the Land Act, this court is to determine disputes and actions concerning land only. I strike out this petition," he said.

LAWYERS' REACTION

The lawyers, through Uzalendo Institute of Democracy and Leadership, had argued tha the rights of the children were not an appendage of those of their parents.

Six of the 35 lawyers – Moses Kurgat, Hillary Koech, Ms Amazon Koech, Cosmas Koech , Hillary Kiplang'at and Ms Patricia May - said they were dissatisfied with the ruling since it's the Nairobi High Court that transferred the case to Narok.

Speaking after the ruling, Mr Kiplang'at regretted the "sorry state of affairs", saying the evictions took place without a 90-day notice and that human rights, especially those of children, were violated.

"The court seem to be helping the government in the evictions. We will not accept this verdict," he said.

"We will meet our clients to seek a new direction. We will either appeal the ruling or move to the High Court and register the case afresh."

RULING WELCOMED

Some13 respondents including the Interior and Environment ministries, friends of the Mau Forest and forestry welcomed the ruling.

Mr Martine ole Kamwaro, who spoke for interested parties including friend of the Mau, said the petition was purely a human rights issue.

The case was first placed before the constitutional and human rights division on August 15.

Justice John Mativo transferred the file to the Environment and Lands Court in Kitale, from where it was pushed to the Nakuru lands court.

State counsels Oscar Eredi and Fatma Ali earlier opposed the application, saying two similar petitions were pending at the Nakuru an Narok High Courts and that it would not be prudent for fresh orders to be issued.

“The issue of conserving Mau Forest and the two previous petitions cannot be separated from the case relating to the children as it relatives to land and environment matters,” Mr Eredi said in his reply to the application.

He urged the court to dismiss the application, saying it did not merit to be heard under a certificate of urgency and that the prayers were not new to the Judiciary