Hunt on for land to settle forest evictees - Daily Nation

Hunt on for land to settle forest evictees

Wednesday September 21 2011

By PHILEMON SUTER [email protected]

The government is looking for land to resettle thousands of squatters evicted from forests in Rift Valley.

The Treasury has already released funds for their resettlement to the Lands ministry.

The squatters were evicted from Embobut Forest in Marakwet East District and the Mau Forest Complex as the government sought to save the vital water catchments from degradation.

However, the search for the land has come up against huge challenges, including political interference and unwillingness by some prospective landowners to sell their parcels.

Finding a huge chunk of land that is located in one place has also been an uphill task. There has also been resistance from host communities.

Marakwet East MP Linah Kilimo, in whose constituency Embobut Forest is located, told the Nation that although a huge parcel of land had been identified at Kipkabus in Keiyo North District, the deal had hit a snag after the host community learnt of the plan.

She also said that the evictees had refused to be resettled in another parcel in Ngata Farm, barely 10 kilometres from Nakuru town, claiming it was “too far from home”.

“We are now looking for land within the region so that my constituents, who are now in temporary holding grounds, can finally have a place to call home,” said the Cooperatives Development and Marketing assistant minister.

“We have now been assured that there is money to buy the land and the ministry concerned is already looking for the land to buy so that we can resettle the victims within the shortest time possible,” she said.

Lands minister James Orengo, who was in Eldama Ravine last weekend, said his ministry had received funds to buy land and resettle the Mau and Embobut forest evictees

The government has already received offers for land in Trans Nzoia, but the land is not enough because more than 3,000 acres are required.

Plans to acquire the 1,800-acre Chemusian Farm in the region to resettle some of the evictees and IDPs, failed after squatters in the area rejected the move, saying that they too needed to be allocated land.

The price of land in Trans Nzoia County has escalated. According to Mr James Chang’wony, a land and property dealer, the average cost of an acre outside Kitale municipality is Sh500,000.

Temporary holding grounds

Meanwhile, the squatting families living in 16 temporary holding grounds within Embobut forest are willing to be resettled “anywhere”.

Mr Nelson Lortapai, a spokesperson for the settlers, said: “All we want is land and not money and we will move from this place.

“As long as we are not moved out of the Rift Valley, we are ready to go to anywhere the government will show us land to settle.”

But some minority groups, including the Sengwer and the Kimaala, insist on being resettled together in one place, said Mr Lortapai.