Leaders not sincere on Mau saga
Published on 31/07/2008
By Kipkirui K’Telwa
The Mau forest saga does not appear to end soon, what with
‘hundreds of people crossing rivers and boundaries to reach the
The impending eviction is a political mirage. After all, land
matters and politics are intertwined such that proper reasoning
and decisions are never arrived at. Rift Valley politicians, in a
bid to remain relevant, have vowed to oppose any evictions unless
the government finds an agreeable alternative land. This is an
Many people accuse politicians of pretending to be voices for the
people yet they have no vision or plans for their people.
And going by the charged political atmosphere, the Prime Minister
Raila Odinga too, might be forced to reverse his decision that Mau
forest settlers be removed. And he has done it more than once.
After all, he has an election to face in 2012. I do not think he
can allow the forest to stand between him and State House. Neither
former President Moi nor President Kibaki showed any desire to
sacrifice their political power at the forest.
In his first term in office, President Kibaki, through his then
Lands minister Amos Kimunya, nullified over 10,000 land title
deeds terming them "mere pieces of paper".
In the run up to last year’s elections, Kibaki reversed the
eviction orders with the aim of winning the over 700,000 voters
from the Kipsigis community, who surround the Mau forest. And
despite being allowed to go back to their farms, they still
rejected Kibaki at the ballot box.
To resolve the issue, the government needs to immediately identify
alternative settlement for those who will be affected then move in
fast to reforest the Mau.
But finding agreeable alternative land is tricky. Even Heritage
minister William ole Ntimama doesn’t see the need for alternative
land since those evicted in Aberdares, Mt Kenya and elsewhere were
not given land.
To politicians, families are voters and they have more to lose in
case the settlers are moved.
As UNEP cries over environmental catastrophe, local leaders are
playing political tactics just to sound like they are protecting
people’s interests. This region is inhabited exclusively and
entirely by Kipsigis and Masaai; settled farmers and pastoralists.
The economic practices depend on predictable weather conditions.
They should know more about water catchment areas.
A number of politicians defending the settlers are said to have
themselves grabbed land meant for the poor.
But all is not lost. The government can repossess all the grabbed
land from the ruling elite and re-distribute it to the poor. Land
tenure system should be streamlined. Use of land should be
redefined. This would release a lot of idle land for either
farming or residential development.