For years, forest evictions have been marked with scared women, screaming babies, burning houses, cursing men and tens of armed security forces.
At times deaths have been reported mainly in the Mau forest all in the spirit of conserving the country’s endangered and dwindling forest cover.
But in a bid to address this, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) has moved in to train Kenya Forest Services (KFS) on respect of human rights during the exercises.
Under a programme sponsored by UNDP, both organizations admitted that some of the eviction exercises had been marred with cases of inhumane acts.
According to KNCHR CEO Dr Bernard Mogesa, they had developed a training manual targeting staff from both organizations and the affected communities.
He said that issues of human rights and community participation would be part of the training in a bid to move away from the inhumane eviction exercise.
“We shall train the staff from Kenya Forest Services and the neighboring communities on respecting human rights so that we can achieve ten percent forest cover,” he said.
He noted that past experiences of violent evictions led to more cases of forest destruction and hence the move to train all parties involved.
“UNDP is providing financial and technical support in this programme and we are confident that forest evictions will be conducted differently in the coming days,” he said.
The senior deputy Chief Conservator of Forest Peter Waweru said that a technical team had been formed to work with the human rights organization so as to meet their goals.
He attributed some of the challenges facing forest conservation to pressure from neighboring communities and hence the need for training.
“In the past Kenya Forest Service has been seen by communities as the tool of victimization but under this programme this will definitely change,” he said.
Waweru noted after the training, forest rangers across the country would be able to engage the communities living in forests in a better way as the use of force fueled more conflict.
On his part, the Conservator of forests David Chege admitted that they had differed with KNCHR over the manner that the evictions were conducted adding that this had now changed.
“In the past we had conflict and disregard of human rights in forest exercises but we have moved on and we now have a healthy environment for all,” he said.