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“Act like a mother”, Bishop in Kenya Appeals to Government Following Land Evictions

Victims of demolitions in a village within Kenya's Catholic Diocese of Embu standing near the rubble of their demolished structures/ Credit: Agenzia Fides

The Bishop of Kenya’s Catholic Diocese of Embu is appealing to the government of the East African country to show kindness to thousands of people who have been left homeless following forceful evictions in his episcopal see.

In a report shared by the information service of the Vatican's Propaganda Fide, Agenzia Fides on Wednesday, May 19, Bishop Paul Kariuki Njiru makes reference to the April evictions of people in various villages of the Diocese and calls upon the government to show compassion to those who have nowhere to go.

“These are fellow Kenyans deserving respect. Even if there is a court order, the Government should act like a mother who cares for her children,” Bishop Njiru says.

He adds, “These evictions were carried out during the rains. There was no justification whatsoever for forcefully evicting people and destroying their property.”

According to the Local Ordinary of Embu Diocese, the Kenyan government should have given the people prior notice by preparing an alternative land for their resettlement.

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“The Government image continues to suffer greatly as long as these people are living here as internally displaced persons,” the Bishop warns.

About 5,000 people from over 800 families from the villages of Muthithu, Ndunguni, Twanyonyi, Kituneni, Mwanyani and Nunga around St. Paul’s Makima Catholic Parish of the Diocese of Embu were left homeless on April 24, after being forcibly evicted by police officers from a 66,000-acre land to pave way for the Tana and Athi Rivers Development Authority (Tarda).

Reports indicate that more than 500 households have registered at a nearby IDP camp while others are camping at Mwanyani primary, Mwanyani secondary, Muthithu primary and Mbondoni market and in other areas around the Catholic Parish.

Agenzia Fides has reported the frustrations of learners who found their classes occupied by homeless families when schools re-opened on May 5.

In the report, Bishop Njiru points out that the pupils in the school are also psychologically disturbed because they are not studying in a good, silent and conducive environment like learners in other schools.

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The Kenyan Bishop further expresses concern that the homeless people are at risk of contracting COVID-19 due to their congestion in the classrooms.

“These families face the risk of COVID- 19 pandemic because they are congested in classes without masks. They don’t keep a safe distance and have no soap and water for washing. If one person is infected, others will be in danger too,” the Bishop says, and adds that the people also face the risk of contracting other communicable diseases like cholera and typhoid.

Bishop Njiru was speaking on May 14 when he visited the evicted families at Ndunguni primary school and distributed foodstuffs, cloths and blankets and other essentials that were donated by the Catholic Diocese of Embu through Caritas Embu.

Agenzia Fides reports that the school management allocated three classes for the homeless families while the pupils occupy three other classes.

“One class accommodates nine families, another six and the other 37 men. The pupils use three classes during the day while their parents use them at night,” Agenzia Fides reports.

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Well-wishers have also built two toilets and four bathrooms to be used by the families but these, according to the May 19 report, are inadequate.

Authorities in the area confirm that there is practically no serious learning going on in the school currently as learners at different levels are using the same rooms to attend their classes.

“We cannot keep COVID-19 protocols due to congestion,” the Makima Ward Area Member of County Assembly, Philip Nzangi is quoted in the Agenzia Fides as saying.

The Kenyan official adds, “We lost a young child of one and eight months due to pneumonia during evictions when their parents took shelter in the bush while it was raining. We are calling upon the government to resettle these families.”