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Villagers cry foul over land evictions in Garissa

A section of residents in Bura Touwfiq village in Garissa Township is appealing to the government to help them in settling a land dispute that left them homeless last night.

According to the residents who spoke to the press, a bulldozer accompanied by armed police officers descended into their homes at around 2am this morning and proceeded to order them out before embarking on destroying their houses.

The Aulian Community Leader, Sultan Hamud Sheik addressing the press over demolition of houses in Bula Touwfiq village in Garissa town. Photo by Erick Kyalo.

“We are the residents of Garissa and as mothers we have been offended by tycoons bringing bulldozes to destroy our houses at night and grab our land because we are poor. We have rights to live here as the citizens of this Country,” said Fardoza Sadiq.

“My house was destroyed completely last night. We do not have anywhere else to go. The powerful private developers behind this demolition are very well known and we are asking the government to intervene in this matter,” lamented Sadiq.

The angry residents wondered why they were being evicted from a land they have lived in for over 30 years by people protected by police even without a court order for eviction.

“I was sleeping in my semi-permanent house when I heard the noises and when I pipped through the door the bulldozer was already at my door step. The only thing I remember was being ordered out with my five children,” said Sofia Abdi.

Sofia said the evictors did not even speak to them or give them time to remove their belongings.

“After the exercise, they moved to the next house and did the same. And even as all this was happening the officers were watching and keeping vigil,” she added.

When the press visited the area that is located a few kilometers from Garissa town, tension was still high, with armed police officers patrolling the area where over 35 houses were torched during the exercise. The residents accused the police of biasness in handling the land dispute.

The Aulian Community Leader, Sultan Hamud Sheik, regretted the manner in which the security officers were taking sides in the issue he described as delicate.

“I started receiving calls from a mother in the middle of the night wailing and crying that their houses were being demolished. I did not believe what I saw with my eyes upon getting here. This is very sad,” said Sultan Hamud.

The Sultan said the disputed portion is a community land and that it is disheartening that all this happened under the watchful eyes of the security officers.

“My question is, are the law enforcers supposed to protect lives and property or take sides when handling matters,” he posed.  If really the person pushing for eviction is genuinely the owner, why do they have to come at night? Why can’t they go to court and secure a court order?” he posed.

The Garissa Deputy County Commissioner (CC), Bernard Ole Kipury said that the matter is under investigation and so far, the investigators do not have any suspect.

Dispute over Land in Garissa is a common occurrence and, in most cases, lives have been lost with property destroyed.

Garissa Governor, Ali Korane, speaking at a recent function, warned residents against sub dividing land amongst themselves and instead leave the function to the government.

He warned individuals who had been engaging in the exercise of dire consequences saying that his administration will not allow more bloodshed occasioned by conflict over land.

By Erick Kyalo

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