More than two hundred residents at the disputed Chepchoina settlement scheme along the border of West Pokot and Trans Nzoia Counties have protested an alleged government’s decision to evict them from land they’ve owned for over twenty years.
The residents were left homeless after more than ten houses were torched, their property was destroyed and three cows were shot dead in Kamken,Cherangan and Naminik villages following a court order in a land tussle where there is double and triple allocation.
Tractors were cultivating the lands manned by security officers led by Endebess District Officer Robert Nyongesa.
The affected families are in urgent need of food aid, shelter and drugs.
The squatters accused the government of directing tycoons to take up their land and now they are displaced, and further faulted brokers for interfering in the land issues.
They claimed they were allocated five acres of land each at the scheme under Agricultural Development Co-operation (ADC) in 1994 and 1997 by former President Daniel Arap Moi but they are being frustrated by the government, which they say is giving the land to other people.
The affected residents are drawn from Pokot, Turkana and Luhya communities have warned that the process will be bloody if the government doesn’t solve the impasse. “We wonder why we are being evicted from a place we’ve lived for long. This is wrong for government officers who are making our life hard,” said Phillip Komolle. The meeting turned chaotic after two rival groups turned against each other.
It forced West Pokot leaders led by Governor John Lonyangapuo and Senator Samuel Poghisio who had visited the area to intervene and calm the situation.
Residents said they have genuine allotment letters yet the government was using brokers to frustrate them and some even come with fake letters every planting season. They said security officers also harassed them to force them out of the land.
Rael Longiro, a 72-year-old mother of 8 said she had spent nights in the cold as they hid from security officers. “Police who ought to protect us are the ones frustrating us and we now want them out or we migrate to Uganda,” she said.
They insisted that they will not move out of the land unless the government addresses the problem. “We will not move even an inch because we have nowhere to go,” said Chokatum, one of the residents.
Governor Lonyangapuo said they will bring lawyers to interpret the court order to settle the land dispute calling for calm in the area until the problem is addressed.
Senator Poghisio condemned the use of excessive force by security officers. “The government’s work is to protect all parties and it’s wrong to shoot and kill cattle,” he said.
However, Endebess Deputy County commissioner Peter Maina accused the residents of peddling lies, threatening and attacking security officers.