State defers takeover of Webuye land

Monday, September 27th, 2021 00:00 |
Tachoni Council of Elders chair Patrick Sitati (right) with Bungoma Nominated MCA Martin Wanyonyi after a meeting with Environment CS Keriako Tobiko at Michuki park in Nairobi, on Thursday. Photo/PD/Kenna CLAUDE

The government has temporarily suspended the gazettement of Chetambe Hills in Webuye, Bungoma county as a government forest to allow further consultations.

 Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko said  the government will dispatch a team to the area for 30 days to come up with a report on the way forward.

 “To allow for verification of the original inhabitants, we have agreed that we will send a team from Kenya Forest Service (KFS) on the ground to write a report on the way forward.

For now, no demolition will be carried out. After the report is released, we have agreed that if we will be found on the wrong, we will withdraw the notice.

However, if it will be on the contrary, demolitions and evictions will commence immediately,” said Tobiko adding that the team will also verify if the residents had been compensated.

Favourable decision 

Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, who had accompanied a delegation of Tachoni Council of Elders lauded Tobiko for suspending the gazette notice, maintained the government will eventually come up with a solution that would favour both parties.

“We are a caring government and I can assure you that we will do what is right. This is a very emotive matter but after 30 days, we will have a conclusive answer.

We have more than 30,000 residents, who have lived here for decades and I can assure you there is no way we will be inhumane to them,” he said.

Tachoni Council of Elders chairperson Patrick Sitati said the suspension of the gazette notice would enable the government to conduct thorough verification of the original residents and imposters.

“We agree that the compensation scheme was started in the 1970s, but not all the people were compensated then.

Some people did not receive any money,” he said adding that so many people were promised that they would be resettled in Trans Nzoia county, but this has not been done.

He said those who received compensation no longer stay in the area.

 “We call for due diligence before the government acts rather than blanket evictions that they intend to carry out,” Sitati said.

 Kimilili MP Didimus Barasa has opposed the proposed gazettement of Chetambe Hills as a government forest, terming the move unconstitutional.

 Barasa said the area is home to more than 30,000 people who have lived there since  immemorial saying that they even have ownership documents.

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