Institutions closed as parents, teachers and pupils move following security operation
At least nine schools have been closed in the last one week following the eviction of over 9,000 people from the Maasai Mau forest.
The eviction continued on Tuesday even as Nairobi-based lawyer Sigey Bett retained by the affected families gave a 14-day ultimatum to the government to halt the ejection or face a lawsuit as he accused the police of committing crimes against humanity.
The affected schools are Kipchoge, Olaba, Masaita, Kitoben, Ororwet, Kirobon, Kabarak, Tebeswet and Ndianit in Ololulunga and Melelo wards in Narok South constituency.
Pupils in the schools have fled the area alongside their parents and teachers following the eviction which started on July 7.
The eviction has been characterised by torching of houses by multi-agency security officers, including those from the Kenya Forest Service, Kenya Wildlife Service, Administration Police and Narok County security enforcement officers.
A senior education officer who declined to be named confirmed that the schools had indeed been closed.
Melelo Member of the County Assembly Philemon Aruasa told the Nation on Tuesday that thousands of people were fleeing the area for fear of attack by the security officers who have been accused of gross violation of human rights.
“It is true that schools have been closed in the region as a humanitarian crisis builds up following the eviction with children and the elderly sleeping in the cold. We are calling on humanitarian agencies to donate foodstuffs and medication to the families,” Mr Aruasa said.
Victims claimed that the security officers were forcing them to pull down their houses before kicking them out of their homes.
“What is not known to the world is that the heavily armed police officers in full anti-riot gear are forcing residents whose houses are on the border to pull them down failing which they are battered or threatened with shooting,” Mr David Mabwai, a resident of Kitoben village, said.
Mr Mabwai added: “While officers with their guns cocked stand guard as the affected families pull down their houses, others are taking pictures using their phones in what we believe is meant to hoodwink the public that the people are willingly leaving the area.”
But Narok County Commissioner George Natambeya denied claims of police harassment.
“The claims are far-fetched and meant to divert attention from the real issues on the ground as the government seeks to rehabilitate the Mau complex,” Mr Natembeya said.
Mr Bett, in a demand notice addressed to the Kenya Forest Service, Kenya Wildlife Service and the Narok County Commissioner, said the people had lived along the Mau forest for several years.
“Our clients have lived there peacefully since 2008; the government embarked on building facilities like utility roads and schools, which operated as polling centres in the last General Election,” his letter reads in part.
Mr Bett further stated, “It is our clients’ position that having the assurance from the Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya and therefore the authority of government that no family should be evicted within the affected region otherwise called the cutline.”
It went on to state that the security officers deployed to the region had used excessive force and destroyed property worth millions of shillings in the process of evicting the families.