Kenya combs forest for squatters

Children in the settlement known as
"Sierra Leone" stand before
forest land which has been
cleared for cultivation

Many of those evicted have
no where else to go

Officials have started combing
Kenya's largest woodland, the Mau forest,
to ensure squatters have left after
a deadline for their eviction expired.

Many of its rivers, which supply vital water,
have dried up and the government
wants to restore the eco-system.

Most of the region's 20,000 families
have left their farms, officials say.

But a BBC reporter in the area says
many had nowhere else to go and are
now living in squalid and desperate
conditions on the forest boundaries.

During the past 15 years, more than
100,000 hectares - one quarter of the
protected forest reserve - had been
settled and cleared.

The problem here is mental torture
Mau forest evictee

In pictures: Mau forest
Life dries up in Mau forest

The government has said it would
compensate settlers who could
supply title deeds to their land.

However, it is estimated that as few
as 1,962 families have genuine title deeds.

Much of the land was handed out
by politicians in the run-up to elections
and then re-parcelled and
sold on illegally.

The BBC's Ruth Nesoba in the Mau forest
said it has been raining heavily
and some of homeless evictees
were very angry.

"We've obeyed the government rules
and come out.

"But the problem we are facing here
is the problem of hunger, some are sick,
some have injuries, the problem here
is mental torture," a distraught man
told the BBC.

The government says the destruction
of the forest canopy has sparked
an environmental disaster downstream,
with millions of people
suffering from water shortages.

And the East African country has just
suffered its worst drought in years.

Officials now intend to replant the more
than 100 million trees felled
by the squatters and illegal loggers.

But environmentalists estimate that it will
be many decades before
Kenya rivers flow again.

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