IDPs express fears over disputed Narok land

Members of the Masaai community armed with machetes, bows and arrows keep vigil at the controversial 2,400 acres piece of land in Mau Narok after they forced out a team of surveyors send to subdivide the land last month. Some of the 850 displaced families in Nakuru say they will not move to a land designated for them in Mau Narok because of hostility on the ground. FILE

Some of the 850 families living at Pipeline camp for the Internally Displaced People in Nakuru on Saturday said that they will not move to a land designated for them in Mau Narok because of hostility on the ground.

They expressed fears of a break of violence in the area because of the controversy that has marred the acquisition of the land previously owned by a white farmer.

Maasai leaders led by Cabinet minister William Ntimama have opposed the plan to settle the IDPs there claiming that the land belongs to their community.

They say the land should be reverted to the community since it had been taken away from them by the British colonialists.

The government has come under pressure after its December 31 deadline to resettle all IDPs passed with the families still stuck in temporary camps with poor living conditions evidenced by worn out tents. The government has pushed the resettlement to January 15 because of the developments on the ground.

However, the IDPs maintained that they are ready to resettle on the 2,400 acre piece of land once the disagreement between the government and the local community is resolved.

“We are ready to move out of this place because these people have suffered a lot but we don’t want to go to a place where our lives will be in danger again,” said Mr Paul Thiongo, the camp chairman.

He said: “We are enjoying a lot of peace here and we don’t to put ourselves in more trouble we rather stay in these tents than to see our people being killed again.” The IDPs have been living in the camps for the last three years.

Another group of IDPs, however, refuted the claims by Mr Thiong'o saying that they are not ready to be relocated to a controversial farm.

Compulsory acquisition

Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka who visited the camp last week declared that the government will use the provision in the Constitution which allows for compulsory acquisition of land to ensure that the plight of IDPs is resolved.

Special Programmes minister Esther Murugi vowed that they will not backtrack on the plan to resettle the 850 families on the land since the government has taken over ownership after buying the land from a British settler.

Rift Valley PC Osman Warfa attributed the standoff to incitement by leaders and biased coverage by a section of the media. “There’s no problem on the ground this land has changed hands five times in the past and no one has ever complained,” he said.

Majority of the families living at the camp were flushed from their homes in Rongai, Nakuru, Kericho, Timboroa and other areas of the Rift Valley.

The IDPs however feel that they are being dragged into a controversy yet the government has failed to resettle them, three years after they were flushed from their homes during the 2007 post election violence.

“Our fear is that this thing is getting out of hand and the conflict may not be resolved soon. We cannot move from one problem to a bigger one.

Personally, I cannot stand seeing people fighting again so it is better we stay here,” said Mrs Esther Wanjiru, a mother of four children.

Members of the Maasai community have vowed to stop the exercise claiming that the land belongs to them. A planned subdivision of the land has been interrupted after armed youths stopped the surveyors from carrying out the exercise.

The families are living in dire conditions with toilets filled up, tents worn out and lack of water, and there is serious threat of break out of diseases at the camp.

“What is the need to go to a place where our neighbours are likely to turn against us?” asked Mrs Wanjiru.

Mrs Linnet Nafula who lives in the camp with her family said that their children risk missing school when learning resumes this January.

“The government should act now because we want our children back in school. We also want to go back to our farms,” she said.