The Environment and Land Court in Nakuru has declined to suspend the ongoing Mau Forest evictions by the government.
A three-Judge bench led by Justice Sila Munyao declined to grant injunction orders sought by the 600 land owners seeking to stop the government from proceeding with the ejection of the settlers said to have encroached the Maasai Mau Forest land.
But the court certified the matter as urgent and directed that it be heard on priority basis so that it is concluded quickly.
“The court is not persuaded to grant the interim orders sought by the applicants herein. The court, however, notes that the petition is urgent, thus directs the parties to file and serve their responses within seven days each before it is heard,” said Justice Munyao.
The 600 settlers filed the application dated August 27 in relation to the government’s decision to issue a 90 days window period for the settlers to leave the forest.
This was after the government published the names of 600 people whose title deeds it sought to revoke for allegedly having been acquired illegally.
Mr Bosek told the court that the situation on the ground is tense as the government has already sent officers “to intimidate and threaten the settlers into moving out of their homes”.
In his argument, Mr Bosek said the evictions will render his clients homeless and disrupt learning for the school children.
They thus sought interim orders restraining the government from any further interference in form of eviction, intimidation, harassment, burning of houses as well trespassing the parcels of land in the group ranches.
But the application was opposed by the State and other interested parties, including the Friends of Mau Forest Conservation and the Trusted Society of Human Rights, who claimed that the orders had been denied at the High Court in in Kitale.
The main petition was filed on July 7, 2018 by Governor Paul Chepkwony and other land owners in a bid to stop evictions from the Maasai Mau Forest.
They accused the government of illegally evicting them from the land which they regularly and lawfully acquired, arguing that the exercise was politically motivated.
They sued the Cabinet secretaries for Land and Interior and the Attorney General.
The government filed a cross-petition seeking to quash the title deeds which it termed as illegal.
Justice Munyao directed that the main petition be heard quickly to resolve the contentious issues which are of high public interest.
The case will be mentioned on October 28.