Sengwer seek return to their forest ‘home’

Winstone Chiseremi @Wchiseremi

Members of the Sengwer community want the government to allow them to resettle in Embobut forest from where they were forcibly evicted by armed security personnel in January.

The affected members said they have no land outside the forest where they can engage in income-generating activities.

Led by their secretary Elias Kimaiyo, the community said they have drafted by-laws that would ensure the protection of Embobut forest and other forests that make Cherangany water tower.

Kimaiyo said the community’s by-laws encompass cultural practices that prohibit destruction of forests.

“The by-laws zone areas of the forest into habitation, wetlands and cultural sites. They map out areas for grazing of livestock and sacred areas where no one is allowed to step,” he said.

They said they have been hard hit by constant forcible evictions by successive regimes in the past 40 years with no alternative land being allocated to them for settlement.

Deal with cartels

Kimaiyo is now appealing to the Environment ministry and the Kenya Forest Service to deal decisively with cartels perpetrating the destruction of the public forest instead of targeting innocent people.

“We are ready and willing to work with the government through the ministry to conserve the 21,000 hectares Embobut forest in Elgeyo Marakwet County,’ said Kimaiyo.

He called on the government to initiated dialogue with the community to discuss how they can live on glades within the forest and take part in conservation as they have always done since pre-colonial days.

Kimaiyo blamed other communities that lived outside the forest and later migrated into the forest for introducing farming that has led to massive destruction of indigenous trees.

Community spokesman Paul Kiptuka said the Sengwer culture and traditions prohibit deforestations.

“We are being forced from our homes and dispossessed of our ancestral land through illegal and violent action by the government for mistakes of other people who migrated into the forest,” said Kiptuka.

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