Selfish interests threaten Mau
Story by MUCHEMI WACHIRA
The direct involvement of political leaders in the Mau Complex
evictions stands in the way of the Government’s resolve to rid the
forest of illegal settlers.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga
(right seated) in discussion with Agriculture minister William
Ruto (centre), Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi (left)
and Chepalungu MP Isaac Ruto during the one-day stakeholders’
forum on the Mau Forest complex at the KICC last week.
Some Rift Valley MPs have
termed the planned eviction of farmers as political and have
urged them to resist the move.
Perhaps these leaders are pushing for this because some of
them have benefited from the allocations of part of the
Among the leaders allocated land in the forest are Bureti MP
Franklin Bett and his Kuresoi counterpart Zakayo Cheruiyot.
Politicians and former senior government officials were also
allocated land in the Mau Complex during the Kanu regime of
retired president Daniel arap Moi.
But it is only the names of
Mr Bett and Mr Cheruiyot which appear in a report prepared
by a commission of inquiry into the irregular allocation of
The commission, chaired by Mr Paul
Ndung’u, had been appointed by President Mwai Kibaki in 2003 to
investigate the illegal allocation of public land throughout the
The commission submitted its report, commonly referred to as the
Ndung’u report, to the President in June 2004.
It is in this report that the names of the two legislators are
mentioned as beneficiaries although it (Ndung’u report) also adds
that several other people got the forest land as reward for their
loyalty to the retired president.
Other big names benefited indirectly from Mau forest land
allocations through cooperative societies they founded.
Kericho Rural Multi-purpose Society, which has since changed name
to Sinendet Rural Cooperative Society, is one of the biggest
beneficiaries of land in the southwestern part of the Mau Complex.
Some of the officials of the society include Mr Josiah Sang, a
former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Lands who retired in
1995. Mr Sang is the society’s secretary.
Its chairman is Mr Ayub Chepkwony, a former MP for Belgut in
Kericho District while Kericho businessman Nehemiah Suge is its
Former Sotik MP Anthony Kimetto is a member. He was the treasurer
before Mr Chepkwony ousted him during the society’s elections.
Sinendet Rural Cooperative Society was initially set up to acquire
tea estates in areas of Kericho where the climate is favourable
for tea growing.
The cooperative draws its membership from ordinary farmers with
the objective of helping them earn more income from tea. As
indicated in the Ndung’u report, the society was allocated three
parcels of land in the Kericho Station area of the Mau Forest in
1994. All the three parcels are under tea.
One of the parcels is 292.97 hectares while the other two measure
74.72 hectares and 5.14 hectares, respectively.
Although the Ndung’u report is yet to be implemented, it has
recommended the revocation of the three titles issued for the
The report also made the same recommendations concerning the 10
hectares allocated to Mr Bett at Kerisoi Station in Kericho. The
MP put up his Frankways Sawmills on the land in 1995.
The commission declared the MP’s land allocation illegal and
recommended the revocation of its title because the area was too
big for a sawmill.
Mr Cheruiyot and a host of other wealthy individuals whose names
have not been mentioned in the report, allegedly took over land
that had been earmarked for a settlement scheme.
The land, measuring 24,109 hectares, was carved out of the
south-western part of the Mau Forest.
It had been excised to establish the Saino, Ndoinet, Tinet and
Kiptagich Settlement Schemes. Some landless people, the Ndung’u
report says, were to be settled on the schemes.
However, the report does not give the details on the circumstances
under which Mr Cheruiyot and other wealthy people came to own the
land. By then Mr Cheruiyot was the permanent secretary in the
Internal Security ministry.
After acquiring the land, the report says, the Kuresoi MP built a
palatial home in the area.
The report has also named civic authorities, including the Bomet
County Council and Elburgon Urban Council as other beneficiaries
of the Mau Complex land.
And like the other allotments, it has recommendedthe revocation of
titles issued to the two local authorities.
Elburgon Urban Council was given 65.16 hectares of the forest in
1983 to extend the Elburgon township.
The land, which is in Nakuru District, has not been developed and
is still under forest cover, according to the report.
Bomet County Council was allocated 102.179 hectares in Chepalungu/Olenguruone
areas of the forest to establish a tea estate in 1994.
From the foregoing, it is obvious that the Mau Complex issue will
always evoke emotions whenever it is mentioned.
Besides protecting their own interests, Rift Valley politicians
are also defending their people who are raking in profits from
their cooperative society that owns tea plantations in the forest.
When Prime Minister Raila Odinga convened a stakeholders’ meeting
last week, which resolved that those living in the Mau Complex
should vacate before the end of October, 10 MPs from the region
could not hide their fury.
The MPs — some of who had attended the meeting at KICC in Nairobi
— called a news conference at Parliament Buildings the following
day and passionately rejected the Government’s plan to flush out
Led by Chepalungu MP Isaac Ruto, the legislators told farmers in
the forest to defy Mr Odinga’s directive.
They termed the directive as a wider plan to punish the Kalenjin
However, President Kibaki has since echoed the PM’s directive,
saying that those who have settled in Mau Forest have to leave.
Eldoret MP William Ruto, who is also the minister for Agriculture,
at the weekend led another group of MPs in airing their views on
the Mau issue. They said that the Government must first identify
alternative land for the farmers occupying the forest before
The Government, on its part, had said that it would only resettle
1,960 people who have been issued with title deeds for the land.
To this end, Mr Odinga was Monday expected to launch a taskforce
to help resolve the explosive Mau forest dispute that is
threatening to get out of hand.
Human settlement in Mau ecosystem, which is the biggest water
catchment area in the country, started about 15 years ago.
This settlement was done under the guise of assisting minority
communities like the Ogiek as well as squatters and other landless
But actually, the Ndung’u report says, the objective of the then
government was to allocate forest land to reward influential
political personalities in the former Kanu regime.
“Many of these allottees got land far in excess of what would be
recommended for an ordinary settlement scheme,” the report says in
And this has seen to the destruction of 25 per cent of the Mau
Complex, which is the lifeline for millions of people in the
country as 12 major rivers have their source in the forest.
Last week, the inauguration of the Sondu-Miriu hydro power project
in Nyanza Province had to be called off owing to the reduced water
levels of a river originating from Mau forest.
Additional reporting by Sollo Kiragu