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The BBC's Andrew Harding
"This is an issue that has aroused fierce passions in Kenya"
 real 28k

'We thought they wouldn't listen to us'
"When we went to court we thought they wouldn't listen to us"
 real 28k

Thursday, 15 March, 2001, 16:17 GMT
Stay of execution for Kenya's forests
Peaks of Mount Kenya
The land on Mount Kenya's slopes is very fertile
A High Court in western Kenya has granted an injunction to prevent the government from handing over protected forest lands to individual Kenyans.

The court in Eldoret made the order after being petitioned by a small human rights group.

Environmental campaigners have condemned government plans to take over 14 forests on the slopes of Mount Kenya - an area of more than 160,000 acres.

They say the area, which represents one tenth of all Kenya's forests, has already been devastated by illegal logging, and any further disruption will have a serious impact on a vital water-catchment area.

Squatters

Correspondents say these groups fear the government may try to use the land to buy support in the run-up to elections next year.

Tthe government says it is simply trying to tidy up the forest boundaries, and that much of the land is already being lived on.

Centre For Human Rights and Democracy Lawyer Ken Wafula described some of the wealthy individuals on the land as "Pajero squatters".

He said he was pleasantly surprised at the court decision - but he believed the struggle was not over.

He said it was a human rights issue - for many Kenyans around Mount Kenya could suffer and even starve if the handover of forest went ahead.

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