Boni community wants forest subdivided

Displaced Boni residents at a previous function. PHOTO/FILE

Lamu,KENYA:The Boni minority community in Lamu county want the national government to subdivide the Boni forest among members of the community so that each can have a piece.

Speaking in Lamu on Tuesday,elders from the community who met said the ancient Boni forest had turned into a hideout for Alshabaab because it had been neglected.

The elders feel the Alshabaab threat will greatly reduce if the forest into a human habitat zone after subdivision.

They said the Boni community has been living like squatters ever since the forest was declared a no go zone by the KDF who are currently conducting an operation dubbed Linda Bonu which is meant to flush out Alshabaab militants hiding within.

The community,which is among Kenya’s last forest communities and who are traditionally hunters and gatherers have for decades depended on the Boni forest for food,water and prayers since all their shrines are located inside the forest.

Currently the Boni lifestyle has been greatly disrupted and the community forced into farming,a venture many of them aren’t used having only depended on the forest for survival.

The forest is currently being bombed to that effect.

“They know very well that our is a forest life and in this case,we have always depended on the Boni forest but since the started the operation Linda Boni,we have become squatters,literally shifting from place to place.The security people tell us it shall be so until Alshabaab is over and done.Our lives are a mess.We cant do farming,it have never been our thing.We just want our lives back,”said Almuzdallifa Ruko.

Last week,Linda Boni operation director Joseph Kanyiri said the security agencies had been able to destroy three major Alshabaab camps and hideouts inside the forest.

The community spokesperson Doza Dizo said they want the government to demarcate and subdivide 50 acres of the forest to every single member of the Boni community afterwhich the remaining can be kept as government land

“We are a very small community and that’s why they call us minority.The issue of us squatting on our own land because of Alshabaab has now reached its limit.We are asking the government to subdivide this forest amongst each of us.Let each get 50 acres.We believe that is the forest is turned into a human habitat,the militants will have nowhere to hide,”said Dizo.