October 20th 2017

Society / Environment

KWS torches homes of 400 families, claiming they are encroaching on park

However, a senior KWS official, Julius Cheptei, who led the eviction, disputed the farmers’ account. "This is not disputed land but a national park which has been officially gazetted,” he said, adding that the legal effect had taken place in June.

By Free Press Correspondentnewsdesk@kenyafreepress.comTuesday, 11 Oct 2016 18:24 EAT

The Kenya Wildlife Service destroyed 400 homes in Mikululo village in Kibwezi West Constituency, Makueni County, alleging that the residents had encroached on protected land. More than 1,000 residents were left homeless after KWS rangers and police officers torched the homes on Friday.

The rangers moved into the village and forcibly evicted the residents from the 24,000-acre land whose ownership is disputed piece. While the residents say they have lived on the land since 1954, KWS rangers say the land belongs to a conservancy associated with the Tsavo West Game Park.

According to an account by the residents’ chairman, Willy Ndulu, the rangers and the police descended on the village at dawn from a helicopter and immediately torched more than 400 homes in Mikukulo Ranching Cooperative Society. The officers also destroyed crops and food stores as well, according Mr Ndulu.

The officers also burnt down Bondeni Primary School, a government school in the villange which also served as a registration centre and polling centre in Kibwezi West Constituency. Some residents claimed also that they were beaten and robbed of money and other valuables such as farm animals. There were reports that the helicopter that transported the officers belonged to a private property developer with an interest in the land but the Kenya Free Press couldn’t independently verify them.

What has caused consternation among the villagers is the way state agencies have gone after them since the eviction. After the displaced people south shelter at a nearby KARI field office, the officers followed them there and asked them to leave. Mr Ndulu said that the residents had sought legal redress in court after recently knowing that the KWS was planning to evict them. "We learnt that they had obtained a tittle deed and went to court to challenge it. We have orders restraining the KWS or anyone from interfering with our stay in the said parcel,” said the chairman.

However, a senior KWS official, Julius Cheptei, who led the eviction, disputed the farmers’ account. "This is not  disputed land but a national park which has been officially gazetted,” he said, adding that the legal effect had taken place in June.

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