Kenya combs forest for squatters

 

Officials have started combing Kenya’s largest woodland, the Mau forest, to ensure squatters have left after a deadline for their eviction expired.

Many of its rivers, which supply vital water, have dried up and the government wants to restore the eco-system.

Most of the region’s 20,000 families have left their farms, officials say.

But a BBC reporter in the area says many had nowhere else to go and are now living in squalid and desperate conditions on the forest boundaries.

During the past 15 years, more than 100,000 hectares – one quarter of the protected forest reserve – had been settled and cleared.

The problem here is mental torture
Mau forest evictee

The government has said it would compensate settlers who could supply title deeds to their land.

However, it is estimated that as few as 1,962 families have genuine title deeds.

Much of the land was handed out by politicians in the run-up to elections and then re-parcelled and sold on illegally.

The BBC’s Ruth Nesoba in the Mau forest said it has been raining heavily and some of homeless evictees were very angry.

“We’ve obeyed the government rules and come out.

“But the problem we are facing here is the problem of hunger, some are sick, some have injuries, the problem here is mental torture,” a distraught man told the BBC.

The government says the destruction of the forest canopy has sparked an environmental disaster downstream, with millions of people suffering from water shortages.

And the East African country has just suffered its worst drought in years.

Officials now intend to replant the more than 100 million trees felled by the squatters and illegal loggers.

But environmentalists estimate that it will be many decades before Kenya rivers flow again.

 

[original]

spotted by RS

Map of Kenya showing Mau forest and the lakes and wildlife reserves fed by its rivers

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