Chaos erupted at Kaveta in the outskirts of Kitui Town, where the Kitui-Kibwezi road bypass traverses, as police officers chased residents out of their homes to pave way for roadworks.
The officers engaged the protesting locals in running battles as roaring earth-movers flattened structures and destroying crops on the earmarked road site.
Residents had staged peaceful demos to protest the eviction amidst delayed compensation for their land.
The angry locals accused the government of playing underhanded tricks to obtain their rightfully owned land without due compensation as required by the law.
John Munyao termed the move by the State to harass residents prior to compensation as an act of impunity.
“This is our legally owned land for which we have title deeds but we are shocked the government has decided to infringe on our constitutional right to fair compensation and force us out,” he rued.
Caroline Mwendwa alleged it was a corrupt scheme to deprive them of what they consider their ancestral land.
“Where do they expect us to go to yet we have not received a penny in compensation? They want to render us landless and homeless,” she lamented.
Some of them claimed the anti-riot police officers had used excessive force and even injured some in the commotion.
“They descended on us with batons and sticks as if we are criminals. Why are we being persecuted as if we are non-Kenyans,” wondered Joshua Safari.
The aggrieved locals called on President Uhuru Kenyatta, Governor Charity Ngilu and area MP to intervene and ensure they get justice.
This comes days after the affected families received a 15- day eviction notice from the National Land Commission (NLC) requiring them to vacate their homes to pave way for roadworks which stalled late last year due to the compensation row.
Speaking in Kitui on Friday, Kitui County Commissioner John Ondego denied claims that the State was planning to forcibly take possession of the disputed tract of land.
“We are trying to negotiate with the affected families to allow resumption of the roadworks pending compensation, which NLC is working on,” he said.
“They should appreciate the fact that NLC was reconstituted recently after tenure of the previous commissioners expired. The new team is doing everything possible to process compensation but the contractor is running out of time,” explained the County Commissioner.
By Yobesh Onwong’a