More than 500 families in Pokot Central and part of Pokot South have been left homeless after more than 250 houses were torched as they were being evicted from Lelan forest on Sunday.
The Kenya Forest Service guards spearheaded the evictions from Paraw, Nakogen, Solion, Kapushen, Rawal and Kamulgon villages.
The move has seen scores of families spend nights in the cold where some of the affected families sought shelter at their relatives’ homes and under trees.
This comes after a survey was conducted in 2012 according to 1988 gazette notice and residents were asked to move out of the forest land.
West Pokot County Commissioner, Apollo Okello has called on the forest department to come out clearly and determine the extent of the forest along the Elgeyo-Marakwet and West Pokot border.
Okello observed that the border has been affected by insecurity, saying the criminals are known to be hiding in forests.
“There is need to get a clear border line between the forest and wananchi farms and those who have encroached the forest have to be evicted if they don’t move,” said the County Commissioner.
The commissioner said the evictions will continue until those still in the forest land are cleared, adding that criminals hiding in the forest will not be spared.
He said this yesterday when he led County security team accompanied by the area governor, Prof John Lonyangapuo in visiting the areas affected by Sunday eviction.
The families’ spokesman, Benson Siwanyang raised concern over the way the security officers carried out the exercise, saying their structures were torched and demolished by officers from the Kenya Forest service and National police reservists without any notice.
“The officers came and without any alert they immediately burnt houses. Nine shops, Posho mills, certificates and school uniforms belonging to 200 primary school pupils, schools, among others were destroyed. Why do they burn areas which are not in the forest?” asked Siwanyang.
They called on the County and national governments to supply them with relief food, drugs and beddings.
“This area is in the highland and it is very cold. We need blankets because we are suffering from Pneumonia. Also we don’t have food as everything was reduced to ashes” said Siwanyang.
Area leaders asked the government to allow residents back to their homes.
Lonyangapuo questioned why the officers acted and yet they had agreed for the case before the court on the disputed land be settled first.
“I wondered why the officer rushes to the eviction and yet the case is in the court. People should be allowed to stay until the case is determined,” said the governor.
“Criminals are the ones who have brought this problem because the boundary is not well known .They need to identify where beacons are. Locals have stayed here for more than 80 years,” he said.
The County boss who bought school uniforms for affected school children said there is need to speed up the case on the disputed land in court and supporting the operation to flush out criminals in the forest.
“I support the eviction of people who are inside the forests and residents who have encroached forests. People who are staying in areas where the border line is still not yet determined should be left until court determines the case,” he said.
Lonyangapuo called on government to employ more National police reservists to help beef up security in the area.
Peter Lochakapong, the Sigor MP. said the area which residents were staying is disputed area.
“Criminals should be dealt with but not locals who have been staying here. The area is not clear if it’s a forest. The map interpretation is questionable. We need more KPRS to deal with some few criminals with illegal firearms,” said Lochakapong.
He asked the government to involve area leaders when conducting evictions.
“Our people need to stay in peace without problems and continue with their daily routine and children need to go back to school,” said Lochakapong.
The forest agency asked all the squatters remaining in the forest to move out of the forests.