What you need to know:
- Kimilili Member of Parliament Didmus Barasa vows to petition the matter in court.
- The inhabitants of Chetambe Hills, a majority of whom are Tachonis, have expressed similar concerns.
Leaders and residents of Webuye East constituency have opposed plans by the government to evict families living in Chetambe Hills.
This comes after Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Forestry Keriako Tobiko, in a legal notice dated June 25, 2021 declared Chetambe land that is approximately 406.22 hectares as forest land.
The latest development is a follow up to the Cabinet Secretary's order to evict those living in Chetambe Hills.
But while responding to the gazettement notice, Kimilili Member of Parliament Didmus Barasa vowed to petition the matter in court.
"We already have too many internally displaced persons here in Bungoma and we don't want to have anymore cases of people being evicted from their land without proper procedure," Mr Barasa said.
Ndivisi Ward MCA Martin Wanyonyi has similarly condemned the planned eviction, saying the forest land in Chetambe Hills belongs to the Tachoni sub-tribe of the Luhya community.
"The gazatement of 406 hectares of land within Chetambe Hills in Webuye East is a big setback to the emancipation of our people. This must be resisted at all cost," the MCA said while addressing residents at Chetambe Hill on Saturday.
The second term MCA faulted the Cabinet Secretary for his failure to consult local leaders and elders before making the move to gazette the forest land.
The MCA and County Director of Special programmes, Carol Buyela, further asked the government to ensure that families living in Chetambe Hills are not left as squatters.
The inhabitants of Chetambe Hills, a majority of whom are Tachonis, have expressed similar concerns.
Bishop David Wanjala, who set up his church in 1998 after buying a piece of land in Chetambe Hills said his church members have been troubled by the planned eviction.
A local school head teacher, who wished not to be named, said that the government's move is going to affect more than five schools in the area.
Kingsley Mutali, politician from Webuye East, said Bungoma County land taskforce, which was set up by Bungoma's first governor Ken Lusaka, had listed pieces of land which belonged to the public and those that were privately owned.
"When Pan Paper Mills was being set up the government wanted a place where it could grow its trees. Families that were evicted were compensated by the government," he said.
The 2017 Webuye East parliamentary aspirant said that the few families from Muji, Mihuu and Ndivisi areas had never been compensated.
One resident, Moses Chetambe, said the planned eviction will not just affect the inhabitants, but also learning institutions, places of worship and medical facilities.
He also cited Chetambe Hills' historical links to the struggle for independence.
"Chetambe was the centre of a big struggle between the colonialists and the natives during this country's fight for independence," he said.
Chetambe Hills which is adjacent to the famous waterfalls of Nabuyole was used during the precolonial era by the Tachonis who had built a fort at the top of the hill to protect themselves from their enemies.