Written by Wanyonyi Wa Wasike
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THE government has been urged to cancel the entire third phase of the resettlement exercise at the controversial Chepyuk Settlement Scheme in Mount Elgon District.
A human rights group, The Western Kenya Human Rights Watch (WKHRW) has demanded a repeat of the exercise saying that recent revelations about 200 plots having been excluded from the map had just confirmed its earlier fears that the exercise was mired in corruption.
Cheptais District Commissioner Mr. Omar Salat admitted that they noted the disparity when the list of beneficiaries failed to tally with the map used to allocate the land.
The move, according to Salat, has prompted the government to call in new surveyors in order to get the right interpretation before a way forward is decided.
But WKHRW Executive-Director Mr. Job Bwonya said that Salat’s admission was in itself proof that the allocation exercise was manipulated in favor of certain well-connected individuals and called on the government to revoke the exercise.
He added that the group had carried out investigations and established the corrupt nature in which government officials who were in-charge of the resettlement exercise turned it into a scheme to award themselves, their kinsmen and friends some huge chunks of land at the expense of more deserving squatters.
“As a group, we had done our own investigations and established the anomaly. We were in the process of documenting our report before releasing it to the government but we believe someone got wind of our investigations and alerted the Provincial Administrators who admitted the anomaly in an attempt to water down our findings and escape the hook,” said Bwonya.
The rights official warned that if not handled well, another botched resettlement may be a recipe for chaos in the area which is slowly returning to peace after years of fighting over land and advised the government to move with speed and avert another crisis.
The government allocated plots to only 1,732 families at Chepyuk, another 356 were resettled in Trans-Nzoia County leaving out 236 families who are yet to be resettled.
However, Bwonya claimed that the number was too minimal adding that the number of landless families was more than 11000.
He said that political leaders and other powerful people in the government had infiltrated the land allocation exercise in the area and called for the arrest and arraignment in court of all those who have acquired land in the area illegally.
“Some of them, after allocating themselves the land, end up forcing the deserving squatters to sell their animals and other property in order to buy the land from them. This is unacceptable since such behavior might plunge Mount Elgon into a fresh crisis and we will not sit back and wait for such things to occur again,” said Bwonya.
In October last year, late Internal Security Minister Professor George Saitoti issued allotment letters to the 1,732 families in Mount Elgon District that he said had concluded the third phase of the resettlement exercise in the area.
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