Page last updated at 16:55 GMT, Monday, 28 September 2009 17:55 UK
Kenya's heart stops pumping

Kipkorir Ngeno and his family at their home in Sisiyan, Mau forest

By James Morgan
BBC News, Kenya

Time is running out for Kipkorir Ngeno, his wife and six children - one of 20,000 families who are facing eviction from settlements in Kenya's Mau forest.

Their village of Sisiyan, aka "Sierra Leone", was created when land within the southern Maasai Mau forest reserve was illegally purchased, subdivided and sold on to settlers.

Many of these so-called "invaders" were unaware that their plots were "irregular" and their title deeds "bogus".

We are awaiting the fate of this place. We are afraid. Not only me, but all of us here.

We are here to defend these homes. But if they finish us - the sooner the better. Because we have lost patience.

We are not affecting the country in any way
Kipkorir Ngeno

Farmer, Sisiyan, Mau forest

They always talk of us as "squatters" - a very bad name. We would like to be like other Kenyans. That is all.

I have six children. They like it here. They were born here. They belong here. And they would like to stay here.

I came here in 2001. Before I came, we were living with our relatives down there - beyond the alleged "cutline" (border of the forest reserve).

I didn't have land before. It was through my struggle that I bought this shamba [farm] for myself.

A group of us bought it together. We saw an advertisement that had been made in offices in Kericho. People advertised farms here. So people came from far.

We did not know this land was within the forest boundary - such things did not exist.

We went to the land registry, did the search and it was absolute - we bought the land.

This is my land. It is not illegal.

Living in fear

At first, this farm was very productive - I grew maize, potatoes.

But of late, we have not been planting the certified maize seeds. We don't even use fertilisers.

It's not that we don't have the money. It's because of worries of eviction.

Kipkorir Ngeno at his home in Sisiyan, Mau forest
Kipkorir Ngeno displays the title deed he purchased for his farm in Mau forest

We don't want to put a lot of resources here because we don't know our destiny.

That is why I am living in these bad structures - only a kitchen and a bedroom - nothing else.

This is not the type of building I would like to enjoy in my life.

I had a better dream of my life. Not this one.

'A bloody name'

The name Sierra Leone came about because of an army man who had gone to that country for peace keeping.

When he came back, he bought a piece here and he built a shop and wrote on it "Sierra Leone".

We don't even like the name. We had given this place a different name - Sisiyan.

We feel bad when people call it Sierra Leone. Because it is a bloody name. And that is even why we are evicted, I think.

Forest burning in the Eastern Maasai mau, Kenya
The Maasai Mau forest has been severely eroded

It is a sad thing to hear that we may be evicted. We are not affecting the country in any way.

Droughts have been there once in a while. Not only this area is affecting the whole country.

Those who are saying so are trying to find reasons to evict us. They are not telling the truth.

I did not cut tall trees on my crop land - only bushes. When I came here it was part-ready to cultivate.

We are trying to keep these tall trees. We are peaceful people.

My message

My message to the government is that they should bring this to an end as soon as possible.

Because at least then the young ones will have the same privileges as other Kenyans.

Peter Ole Nkolia
The people in Mau forest need to move... I cannot stay here suffering
Peter Ole Nkolia,

Farmer, Narok

Up to now, we don't even feel we belong to this country.

Free primary and secondary education - we have never enjoyed these here.

Some of my children dropped out of school because of lack of school fees and security.

Even to this day, we wait until they are 8-10 years old to start nursery, because the schools here are very far away.

We don't even know if we have a government. The leaders don't come here. They don't even know us.

If we belong somewhere else, they better take us there. We are not ready to fight.

But we will be asking questions - Where to? And why? I don't know where I'll go. They will tell us where to go.

Would I take another home? It depends on the type of place. We don't want to go from a good place to a bad place.

This place is good. It is good because I chose it myself.

You see, life is what you choose. Not what other people choose for you.

Mau forest map
Map showing three types of settlement within the Mau forest reserve: (i) Land excised and allocated to settlers by government (ii) Trust land which was adjudicated to indigenous forest peoples (iii) Land which was encroached or illegally purchased

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