White Kenyans fear as farms are invaded

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The Independent Online

A minister from the Kenyan Government said that around 500 black families had moved onto two farms owned by white farmers, including one owned by the minister himself.

The move, which bears grim echoes of the troubles in Zimbabwe, will have Kenya's white farmers worried but the government said that the situations in the two countries were not related.

A statement by Richard Leakey, Kenya's chief civil servant, said, "The invasion is not new...there is no connection whatsoever between events in Kenya and Zimbabwe."

Basil Criticos, a white member of parliament, who owns one of the invaded farms said his sisal farm in the south of the country had been invaded by over 300 families and a nearby farm had been invaded by a further 200 families.

Mr Criticos said the recent calls from radical politicians for Kenyans to grab under-utilised white-owned land had incited the invasions.

He added that the invading families had beaten up his security workers.

"My farm has been invaded by over 300 families...who not only burned over 2,000 acres of arable sisal but also cleared the burned sisal and started cultivating and subdividing the land with impunity." Criticos said.

Mr Criticos is the only white elected member of Kenya's parliament and a member of the ruling party.

The statement said the invasions followed exhortations by opposition member of parliament Steven Ndichu and Sharif Nassir, a ruling party minister in President Daniel arap Moi's office.

A few of the invaders had been arrested but have since been released by police he said.

There have been fears that the violence that has gripped Zimbabwe could come to Kenya, which is also a former British colony.

President Moi has not followed his Zimbabwean counterpart Robert Mugabe in supporting the invasions and has said that Kenya needs foreign investment not a bitter fight over land rights.

Most of Kenya's white farmers voluntarily gave up their land to black Kenyans after independence, but many of the country's biggest farms are still in white hands.

Mr Criticos urged the government to take steps to stop these actions before they become more wide spread.

"If this can happen to the landowner who is the area member of the parliament and an assistant minister in the government, what chances do ordinary citizens have in defending their rights?" he said.

"The government appears reluctant in either protecting (landowners) or addressing the issue." he added.

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