|An Ogiek woman sits in front of the remains of her demolished house. © Survival|
Thugs and plain-clothed police officers are destroying the homes of Ogiek tribe members in Kenya’s Mau Forest, leaving families destitute.
Some houses were burned to the ground, while others were hacked apart with chainsaws and machetes.
The attacks, in Ngongori area of the Mau Forest complex, began last week when most of the Ogiek men were attending a funeral some distance away.
The evictees believe the attacks were arranged by powerful landowners in the area who want to expand their wheat fields. Very little forest remains in Ngongori, because outsiders have cleared so much of the land for farming.
The thugs returned yesterday to renew the attack. One Ogiek man, Kiplangat Cheruyot, told Survival ‘people were just crying and children were running away’.
This is not the first time that the evicted Ogiek, who do not have official title to the land but who have lived there for generations, have been told to leave. One man told Survival, ‘they started doing this a long time ago. Destroying houses as we build them again.’
These Ogiek are squatters on their own land, squashed between other people’s fields thanks to a disastrous land distribution scheme in the 1990s which allowed corrupt individuals to acquire great stretches of Mau Forest.
The scheme facilitated the wholesale destruction of much of the forest, a mistake the Kenyan government is now struggling to rectify in a reforestation project. But the Ogiek, who are the original inhabitants of the Mau Forest, are not being properly included in the restoration process. As most have never received land titles, many fear they will be penalized for living in a forest that others have now virtually destroyed.