News 2008

 

RAILA PICKS TASKFORCE FOR MAU FOREST PROBE



Kenya Times

Monday, July 21, 2008

BY JOSEPH MABILI



Prime Minister Raila Odinga (centre) addresses the Press on the inauguration of the Task Force on the Mau Forest Complex at his Treasury Building Office yesterday. He is accompanied by Agriculture minister William Ruto (right) and Lands minister James Orengo. PHOTO/FIDELIS KABUNYI.

THE government is likely to face a major confrontation with a section of MPs from the Rift Valley after forming a task force to address the controversial Mau complex settled on by thousands of people.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga ignored threats from a section of MPs from the region opposed to the planned eviction of farmers allocated land in the forest, and went ahead to form the task force, that will among other things, work with local communities in addressing the Mau complex issue.

The task force comprises 21 members drawn from senior officials from relevant Ministries, representatives of stakeholders groups and expert organizations including United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP).

Raila said the task force will first come up with terms of reference for their duties of consultations in a period of two weeks which would be approved by himself as well as a time frame for the recommendations generated during the stakeholders’ forum held a fortnight ago.

The committee will demarcate and fence off the 400,000-hectare Mau Complex, which is the source of 12 rivers and a lifeline for millions of people. It will further mobilise resources to restore the complex and establish a special court to prosecute those found involved in irregularities in the forest.

The Government has said that it will only resettle 1,960 people who have been issued with title deeds for the land. Yesterday, Rift Valley leaders said that the evictions should be shelved until the affected families are compensated. Raila said the task force will ensure no further destruction of the forest takes place in future saying that police were under instruction to ensure this does not happen.

On eviction, Raila said any further move will depend on the final report of the task force saying that no eviction will take place by the end of October as had been reported in the media."It will ensure that no more destruction by felling trees for building and burning of charcoal. Police have been informed and no lorry should be seen carrying trees or charcoal from the forest."

During the inauguration of the task force in his office yesterday, Raila said after the report immediate action will take place for genuine people to be compensated so as to discourage impunity.Said he: "Only genuine stakeholders will get compensation. We don’t want to encourage impunity" . He, however, said people will be resettled in a proper manner without infringing on their rights or inflicting any harm on them.

The task force members include James Muhoro, Dr. Alice Kaudia, Reuben Murugu, Ms. Lorna Odero, Nelson Wanyeki, Wilson Songa, Patrick Oloo, George Ndegwa, Moses Ogala, D.K Mgugua, Prof. Fred Owino, Christain Laumbrets, Dr. Lumumba Odenda, Wilson Soi, Joseph Ole Karia, Shadrack Ole Rotikeni, Josha Koskei, Clement Kariuki, Charles Sena, Hassan Noor and Prof. Julian Bauer.

The team will refer to the outcomes and recommendations made during the consultative forum that took place on 15th of this month. The secretariat will be based at UNEP offices with its chairman appointed from Ministry of Forest and Wildlife

During the forum it was resolved that squatters move out by the end of October or be evicted from the forest.At the launch of the task force, Raila was accompanied by ministers William Ruto (Agriculture), James Orengo (Lands) and Rift Valley PC Hassan Noor, and MP Issac Ruto among others.Raila said the government is committed to protecting water catchment areas across the country including Chulyu Hills, Mt. Marsabit, Mt. Elgon among others.

An earlier effort by the Premier to resolve the controversy was resisted by ten Members of Parliament from the expansive Rift Valley rubbishing the resolutions reached during a Mau Stakeholders Forum. The MPs vowed to use all the available legal avenues to resist eviction accusing the government and Prime Minister Raila Odinga of using the Mau complex issue to "deliberately persecute" members of the Kalenjin community.

The legislators opposed to evictions include Isaac Ruto (Chepalungu), Joshua Kutuny (Cherangany), Elijah Lagat (Emgwen), Lagat Makerer (Kipkelion), Benjamen Lagat (Ainamoi), Dr. Julius Kones (Konoin), Lucas Kigen (Rongai), Sammy Mwaita (Baringo Central), Moses Lesonet (Eldama Ravine) and Peris Simam (Eldoret South).

Cabinet Minister William Ruto and Henry Kosgey are the latest to join the fray and have called for soberness in dealing with the Mau crisis. "We do not want a repeat of the 2005 incident when settlers in Mau forest incurred huge losses after the government evicted them," said Mr. Ruto.

The MPs have questioned the sincerity of the Government, arguing that some communities such as the Ogiek considered the forest their ancestral land. They said the evictees should be shown where they will be settled before they are moved. The legislators said that although they were not opposed to the conservation of the Mau forest, they did not want the government to create more internally displaced persons through the evictions.

They further said that a proposal to the meeting that a proper and comprehensive negotiated programme touching on the resettlement of those to be evicted from the Mau complex be put in place was over-looked.

The Chepalungu MP has also sought for a ministerial statement from the PM demanding to know whether adequate consultations has been done with communities affected and steps that will be taken to compensate them should they be evicted.

Thousands of squatters living in Mau Forest have been ordered to vacate by October as part of measures by the government to restore Kenya’s biggest water catchment area. He promised a constitution of a task force following disagreements. Among other things the task force will demarcate and fence 400,000 hectare Mau Complex which is the source of 12 rivers and a lifeline for millions of people.

 

 

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