The Government has launched an exercise to identify forest boundaries following persistent skirmishes linked to land ownership disputes that have rocked Nessuit, Mariashoni, Ndoswa, Kaprop and Kapnoswa areas in the Eastern Mau Forest Nakuru County that has left more than 20 people dead.
The Rift Valley Regional Commissioner (RC), George Natembeya said Kenya Forest Service was leading an operation to reclaim Logoman, Sururu, Likia, Kiptunga, Mariashoni, Nessuit, Baraget and Olposimoru forests within Mau Forest Complex. The operation started on June 27, 2020.
The latest incident happened a week ago whereby six people were killed, several others left nursing arrow injuries while more than 200 houses were torched in the flare-ups.
He said those who acquired land legally in the region would be issued with ownership documents adding that the aim of the operation is to stop all illegal human activities from government forests which form the Eastern side of Mau Forest Complex. At least 4500 hectares of forest land has been reclaimed and 945 illegal structures destroyed.
Natembeya said the violence has been linked to the thorny Mau Forest land issue and political incitement among other factors.
He said the exercise which involves officers from KFS and the Kenya Police Service will not be halted, adding about 20,000 households are expected to be evicted in Nessuit, Tachasis Chepkosa, Sururu and Likia.
The administrator revealed that detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations are pursuing 10 people, among them politicians suspected to have planned the violence.
He said among those already in police custody was a chief from Mariashoni who was found with arrows and other weapons.
Clashes rocked Olposimoru region after the killing of two boys who were grazing family cattle on Tuesday. It culminated in to the shooting of two youths allegedly by security personnel carrying out the operation. A fifth person was hacked to death at Olposimoru trading centre.
Meanwhile more than 10 people are admitted to the Olenguruone Sub-county Hospital with arrows lodged in their bodies with two others having been transferred to Kenyatta National Hospital for specialized treatment.
Although the reason for the Mariashoni violence is not yet clear, leaders blame it on the scramble for the remaining Mau forest fringe land after the eviction by the KFS two weeks ago.
The Nakuru Governor, Lee Kinyanjui, Senator Susan Kihika, MPs Charity Kathambi (Njoro), Kuria Kimani (Molo), Joseph Tonui (Kuresoi South) and Woman Rep, Liza Chelule have since asked the communities involved in the conflict to stop the fights.
Kinyanjui said he was deeply upset by recurrent skirmishes in Mariashoni and Nessuit within Njoro Sub-County. The governor stated that he was liaising with the County Commissioner, Erastus Mbui Mwenda and local police chiefs to enhance security presence across the area to prevent further loss of lives and property.
Urging the residents to maintain peace and stop bloodshed, the County boss noted that residents must embrace dialogue and reconciliation as conflict over land can only be sorted through legal processes. “The sight of burning houses and suffering families is unbearable and primitive. This is a situation that threatens to reverse gains made in containment of Covid-19 pandemic as thousands of locals, including elderly, sick and the young uprooted from their homes are now crowded at Oinoptich Primary School in Mariashoni,” said Mr Kinyanjui.
The government has declared a dusk to dawn curfew for people in the clash-hit areas of Mariashoni and in Mau Narok at the Nakuru-Narok border which also experienced clashes earlier. Fourteen suspects linked to the skirmishes have been remanded for 10 day.
The Senior Resident Magistrate, Lilian Arika remanded the suspects including a former Member of County Assembly, Joseph Miangari and a Kenya Defense Forces serviceman at Bondeni and Njoro police stations to allow police conclude investigations.
By Anne Mwale/Emily Kadzo