State blamed for deaths and brutality in Mau evictions

Thursday, July 23rd, 2020 18:24 |
A family moves out of the Maasai Mau forest PHOTO/PD/FILE

Human Rights Watch has condemned violent evictions from Mau Forest by police which have resulted in deaths and desperation to evictees.

The rights group faulted the government for not assisting the evicted resident turning to tens of thousands. They said 6,000 of the people evicted recently are living in harsh conditions of makeshift camps in Narok county.

“Violently evicting forest dwellers is unacceptable and failing to help them to relocate or supporting them during the Covid-19 pandemic is even worse,” said Otsieno Namwaya, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“The government should urgently respond to this crisis by investigating reports of excessive force and other abuses, and upholding Kenya’s guidelines for all evictions,” added Namwaya.

Human Rights Watch visited the 2 camps and the town of Narok in March 2020, interviewing 37 people, including evictees and local authorities. Following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, researchers interviewed 7 more people in Sagamian camp, 2 of them representatives of the evictees’ association, by phone in June.

Between August and November 2019, at least 150 armed officers used excessive power to evict people from Kitoben, Olaba, Kapkoros, and Kirobon areas, observed Human Rights Watch.

Witnesses and family members said at least seven people died during or after the evictions.

Kenyan authorities have not investigated these deaths and other abuses and have instead threatened to forcibly shut down the camps.

Reports of destruction of livelihoods and the burning of food have also been made. Many residents are also said to have been maimed by police who beat them with gun butts and sticks.

During 2018 evictions, Human Rights Watch uncovered at least nine deaths and several injury reports, all pointing to gross human rights violation.

The State blamed illegal settlement into the forest which for over 30 years had led to massive environmental degradation and drying of rivers.

Authorities are said to have ignored court orders and previous complaints on brutality to effect the 2019 evictions.

They did not follow the Evictions Guidelines of 2010, which require authorities to provide a 90-day notice, publicized in the official government gazette and posted in open places for those targeted for eviction to see. Said the Human Rights Watch.

Two people died due to police violence during or right after the evictions; others sustained serious injuries. At least five others died months later, potentially in part due to harsh conditions such as lack of food and excessive cold, but Kenyan authorities have denied that anyone died.

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