By Victoria Magar
Kimilili Member of Parliament Didmus Barasa has opposed the gazettement of Chetambi Hills as a government forest land, terming it unconstitutional.
The lawmaker said he was surprised by Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko’s attempt to gazette the area where over thirty thousand people call home as a government forest. The legislator said the current inhabitants of the land have lived there for a very long time and have valid title deeds.
“Taking peoples land and making it government so that it can be transformed into a forest is unacceptable, we will not accept this as leaders elected from Bungoma county,” said Barasa.
Speaking to the media on Sunday, July 18, the lawmaker claimed that there was no public participation prior to the government’s decision. He added that Kimilili locals and those from Bungoma county at large have no extra land to accommodate those who will be internally displaced by the plan.
“These people are going to be declared homeless and some of them will be found in my Constituency trying to find a place to settle. Remember, Kimilili constituency has been hosting squatters from Mount Kenya and we are not going to allow more as a result of Chetambi hills,” he added.
Further, the Tanga Tanga allied MP vowed that, as leaders, they will ensure the land is not taken away by the government and will hire lawyers to challenge the gazettement in court.
In the gazette notice, Tobiko said that the over 406 hectares of land, is supposed to be taken over by the national government and be declared a forest area.
Barasa said the move clearly indicates how irresponsible the government is and the incompetence of the Cabinet Secretary.
“When Keriako Tobiko was the Director of Public Prosecution he never even successfully managed to prosecute a fly. This is a man who is very incompetent and he has put his incompetence before Kenyans by declaring Chetambe Hills forestland yet people have been living there for very many years,” he said.