For years, residents of West Pokot have known Kamatira Forest as the dumping site for bodies of people who have been killed outside the county.
According to the residents, up to 2019, they would collect dead bodies in the forest yearly, sending chills among locals. However, in 2020, no such scenario was witnessed.
The most recent incident was that of a personal assistant to former Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen, Benson Kiptire, who was reported missing and later found dead.
In 2019, the former Kapyego MCA's body was found dumped in a thicket in Kamatira Forest.
He was allegedly abducted by people who had claimed to be police officers at his shop in Eldoret town.
Police reports had indicated that Mr Kiptire must have been murdered elsewhere and his body dumped in the thicket.
A good year
According to some of the residents around the forest who spoke to the Nation, 2020 was a good year to them because no such incident took place.
“Since my childhood, I have known Kamatira Forest as a place where people who have been murdered outside West Pokot County are dumped. Every year, residents of this area have been coming across bodies in this forest,” says Titus Poriot.
“The MCA from Elgeyo Marakwet was the last incident. Those of us who live around the forest have been in panic because of that and we thank God that we never had such an incident in 2020,” he adds.
They expressed fears that the forest has been misused over the years and asked the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) to fence it off.
“Every year, apart from 2020, there have been cases of people being dumped in this forest after being killed in other places. The KFS should fence it off,” said Sylvester Kibet, another resident.
Kamatira Forest, which stretches on both sides of the Kapenguria-Lodwar highway, meanders with steep slopes that have been marked as a blackspot for years.
“The highway passing through the forest has claimed many lives due to its meandering nature,” said Florence Cheruto, another resident.
The residents have also raised concern that the forest is dying as a result of human encroachment.
They are asking the KFS to move with speed and save the forest, which they say is the main source of water in the county.
“Apart from being used as a dumping site for bodies for years, another worry now is that many people have started destroying the forest. There are sections which have been depleted as we speak. KFS must now act or else we will lose our source of water permanently,” said Mr Poriot.
He says they hope they will be provided with tree seedlings to plant to mitigate the massive destruction.
In 2019, Governor John Lonyangapuo’s administration, in collaboration with the Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (Ketraco), planted 3,000 trees in the expansive forest.
Environment Principal Secretary Chris Kiptoo said the government is committed to planting 1.5 billion trees by 2022 for the country to achieve a 10 per cent forest cover.
"2030 was set as the year that our country was to achieve 10 per cent forest cover but our President revised it to 2022. Therefore, we plan to plant seven million trees next year and another eight million in 2022," said the PS.