Squatters ordered out of Mau
NATION - Nairobi
Story by LUCAS BARASA and BORNICE BIOMNDO
16. July 2008
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.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga Tuesday led 10 Cabinet ministers and a
host of MPs at arriving at the decision, which drew sharp
divisions among South Rift leaders and threatened to split his
bedrock of support in a region that voted for him almost to a man
during last year’s General Election.
Chepalungu MP Isaac Ruto, who is leading Kipsigis MPs opposed to
the evictions, exchanged bitter words with Narok South’s Nkoindila
ole Lankas, prompting Mr Odinga to intervene to restore order at
the stakeholders forum.
And after Forestry and Wildlife PS Kombo Mwero read the
resolutions of the meeting and minister Noah Wekesa asked for a
seconder, Mr Ruto interjected and rejected them, saying that they
were not discussed at the forum.
However, Mr Odinga intervened again, saying that a taskforce will
be formed to, among other things, work with local communities in
addressing the Mau problems. Mr Odinga said that two Maasai and
Kipsigis MPs will also sit at the committee.
The committee will demarcate and fence the 400,000-hectare Mau
Complex, which is the source of 12 rivers and a lifeline for
millions of people.
“The committee will also mobilise resources to restore the complex,”
Mr Mwero said.
It will further establish a special court to prosecute those found
involving in irregularities at the forest.
The forum resolved that only 1,962 people with title deeds will be
A joint enforcement structure involving the police, Kenya Forest
Guards, Kenya Wildlife Service and local authorities will man the
forest and apprehend illegal loggers and charcoal dealers.
Tuesday’s forum also rekindled differences between the Maasai and
Kipsigis leaders with the former supporting the evictions and the
latter have opposing them.
Mr Lankas, who spoke on behalf of the Maasai, said that Mr Ruto,
who represented the Kipsigis, had no business as his constituency
lay far away from Mau.
The Narok South MP said the Mau issue should not be politicised,
but Mr Ruto said it was sensitive and could spark ethnic tensions.
Earlier, various leaders had spoken of the importance of the Mau
Forest to Kenyans and neighbouring countries.
Mr Odinga said the destruction of the forest was a national issue,
adding that President Kibaki had rescheduled the inauguration of
the Sondu-Miriu project after the water levels of a river
emanating from the forest fell. He said the launch had been slated
for Thursday and that even Japanese officials were already in the
country for the event. Sondu-Miriu was built through Japanese
Mr Odinga said it was time to act to stop further destruction of