Inside his dimly lit worn out tent at Muhu Farm, 88-year-old, Joseph Thuku mulls his next move after being ‘ordered’ to vacate from a place he has known as his home for the last 11 years.
Not even his compatriots, relocated here by the state from Mawingu camp in Laikipia County in 2009 are safe from the insatiable appetite of some rich and powerful individuals eager to get a piece of the 523-acre chunk.
As he focuses on the uncertainty and devastation that the ‘eviction order’ has dragged into 176 families that were uprooted from their homes in parts of Nakuru and Eldoret following 2007-2008 post-election skirmishes, Thuku is now appealing to authorities to intervene.
A walk through the camp paints a picture of desolation among the group that currently occupies Muhu farm that traverses Nakuru and Laikipia Counties.
“Three prominent businessmen and an influential politician are now laying claim to this chunk of land. They have moved to court and obtained orders to evict us within three weeks,” he said.
“For the past eleven years we have been living in tents as we wait for the government to survey and subdivide the land among 176 individuals,” he says.
At 92, Maria Wanjiku Njoroge indicates that instead of enjoying her sunset years, spending time telling her grandchildren about World War II or the Mau Mau struggles, she now has to worry about ‘individuals young enough’ to be her grandsons who are keen to displace her.
When she emerged from her shanty made of polythene and cartons, looking frail but with a strong memory, Njoroge also expressed fears of diseases outbreak due to the ongoing heavy rains.
“Though our faces paint a picture of resilience against the background of eviction threats and harsh weather, we should not forget that in this overcrowded camp that lacks sanitation facilities, diseases including the coronavirus can easily spread,” she said.
“We were settled here by the state and at the time nobody raised any objection. We know no other home and are appealing to the head of state and relevant authorities to stop those laying claim on this land in their tracks,” she says in faltering Kiswahili.
For 56-year-old, Francis Kimwami all the residents are now suffering in a deep silence after the ‘new owners’ laid claim to their piece of land.
Kimwami noted that most of the men in the camp have lost interest in their lives and jobs as they are depressed and are battling low self-esteem.
“We lack food and medical services and our camps have been virtual death traps. Sometimes, the pit latrines get filled with rain water, which flows into the camp. Now we are devastated that some individuals want to kick us out of this place. If you look around most men are very sad,” says Kimwami.
For Evans Karanja Njuguna, justice may appear to have been served if the IDPs were allowed to join the case seeking their removal from Muhu farm before any orders were issued.
He said in the past two years as anxiety heightened among them following the land ownership’s feuds, 66 persons succumbed to conditions related to stress and depression.
“We seek to appeal against the eviction order and be involved in the case as the decision of the court will greatly affect our lives. We have settled on the farm which we now recognize as our home,” said Njuguna.
The National IDP Network Women representative, Lucy Njeri says there is need for relevant authorities to engage the families and probe those laying claim to the land in order to speed up the process of resettling the group.
She appeals to the government to set up within the region amenities like hospitals, schools, worship centre, police stations and markets, while accusing some of those eyeing the parcel as being masterminds of a cartel that lined up persons masquerading as internally displaced.
The network says it has written to Rift Valley Regional Commissioner, George Natembeya requesting his office to intervene over the matter.
“We commend the government for purchasing the farms for IDPs and resettling them, but some of them are still languishing in abject poverty as legal battles have emerged holding back the process after the courts imposed injunctions to await determination of the cases,” said Njeri.
The Network’s National Chairman Patrick Githinji has called on political operatives to keep off the camp and desist from engaging in divisive talk and acts of incitement.
He warns them against milking political mileage out of the families’ plight, adding that proper channels should be followed in resolving the crisis instead of empty rhetoric that may aggravate the situation.
“We need a lasting solution to this crisis. It still flies on the face of justice that a decade later, people who were uprooted from their homes feel insecure where they were resettled,” notes Githinji.
By Anne Mwale/Dennis Rasto