Kenya: Sengwer indigenous community say eviction to pave way for water project will compromise their livelihood
Author: Joseph Muraya, Capital News(Nairobi), Published on: 5 January 2018
"Forest is our ancestral land, Sengwer community say resisting eviction"
Sengwer, an indigenous community living within Cherangany Hills, Embobut and Kabolet forests have protested ongoing evictions of locals from their ancestral land, to pave way for a European funded programme dubbed the Water Tower Project. Through their representatives, the community is calling on Parliament to launch an inquiry into the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources for allegedly trampling on their rights to live peacefully. Yator Kiptum, a local, says if the government wants to conserve the forest, indigenous communities should be involved since vacating their land will leave it vulnerable from destruction by outsiders. “The government should respect the constitution. The need to come, we agree on how we shall continue to live in our ancestral land while protecting it,” he appealed during a briefing to journalists on Thursday. “We do not understand why the Kenya Forest Service has continued to evict our people while burning their houses and yet that is a communal land. They better kill us but we shall not vacate our land.”
Locals have narrated their ordeal under the hands of Kenya Forests Service officers, where some have sustained gunshot wounds during forceful evictions and torching of their property, but even with that, they have vowed to fight for their rights. “The KFS officers the other day came to my house, asked me to leave even without collecting my personal stuff. They then proceeded to burn the houses, I lost everything,” a local said. Among the appeals the community is making is an immediate halt of the Water Tower Project, which has been financed to the tune of Sh3.1 billion and to also suspend all funding to agencies charged with implementing the programme, including the Kenya Forest Service, whom they say have been deployed to evict them from their forest homes.