Mwatate residents vow to stop construction of disputed park fence

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An elephant and its calf behind an electric fence in Tsavo./file

 Taita Taveta, KENYA:The storm brewing between the residents of Mwatate and the Kenya Wildlife Service over the construction of the disputed the 30-kilometer Bura-Sarova-Alia-Mwananchi fence does not seem like it will end anytime soon.

This is after the residents vowed to use any means to stop the construction of the wall accusing the KWS of planning to illegally fence off their farms hence denying them access to an avenue to conduct their daily mining and farming activities.

Speaking on Monday, the residents say that since the Taita Taveta County assembly had failed to intervene in the growing dispute they would use other means to stop the fence.

Mr. Harman Kirigha, the director of Kwaila Construction Company Ltd,a construction firm operating in the area accused the service of secretly grabbing community land by forcefully erecting the electric fence.

“The government itself is aware that individuals’ legally applied and acquired title deeds of their lands ready for development. The landowners with title deeds will not sit down  and allow KWS to grab their lands which they inherited from their grandfathers.” Harman Kwaila said.

Two weeks ago three residents were injured and scores arrested after they tried to stop construction firms and KWS officers who had arrived to begin construction of the disputed fence.

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The residents allege that the Kenya Wildlife Services electric fence acquired over 300 acres community land which they say it’s contrary to the map as agreed by all stakeholders who include the KWS, leaders, and the community.

The residents argue that stakeholders had agreed that the electric fence shall be erected 35km away from the community farms.

A spot check by Baraka FM revealed that ranches like Choke ranch, Kutima, Lwalenyi and Mwananchi settlement scheme will be affected should the fence be completed.

 

Mr. Omar Mwamburi a resident from Alia village condemned KWS for lying to the public that the electric fence is temporary.

“The KWS being used by some powerful individuals to grab community.” Mr. Omar Mwamburi said.

The 50-kilometer electric fence is intended to protect crops, schools, residents and human settlement areas from being invaded wildlife animals from the nearby Tsavo West national park.

Human-wildlife conflict has been a menace to residents of Taita Taveta which has led to high levels of poverty levels which has also affected educations standards.

However, KWS has maintained that the fence is being constructed according to the specifications agreed in stakeholder participation meeting.

 

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