Raila reiterates Government plan
to save Mau
By Wandera Ojanji And Nick Oluoch
All settlers of the Mau Forest complex - whether legal or
otherwise - will have to move out.
This was the stern message from Prime Minister Raila Odinga when
he opened the 10th Biennial Conference of the International
Society for Ecological Economics in Nairobi, on Saturday evening.
Raila reiterated the Governmentís determination to ensure the
restoration and protection of Kenyaís largest water tower ó the
There are four other towers, including Mount Kenya.
The PM blamed corrupt practices and landlessness as factors for
the destruction of the forest.
"Nearly two decades ago, large portions of the forest were given
to farmers and well-connected individuals. But we are now
determined that the Mau Forest Complex must be saved and the
farmers asked to move out," Raila said.
He said while it was natural for the settlers and illegal loggers
to resist attempts to move them out, the Government could not
allow Kenyans to continue suffering at the expense of a few
"There is strong resistance from those who are now in the forest,
from the illegal loggers, as well as sections of their linked
communities," Raila disclosed.
He added: "But our message to all of them is very simple: Those
who will gain the most from Mauís restoration are the people of
the immediate region."
Raila dismissed claims that the Government was saving the Mau
merely because of bowing to pressure from environmentalists, or
discriminating against the local people in order to serve their
Reiterating the importance of Mau, Raila noted that the forest was
key to the livelihood of millions of people in the region, who
depend on the major rivers it generates for survival and food
In addition, the rivers provide water for cash crops that sustain
millions of people and animals. The Masai Mara Game Reserve, one
of the Ten New Wonders of the World, would be no more if Mara
Riverís waters kept receding, warned Raila.
At the same time, Forestry and Wildlife Minister Noah Wekesa has
said people who have encroached on the Mau Forest should not
expect special treatment from the Government. The minister said
those in other catchment regions had left and there was no reason
why those in Mau should insist on living in the forest.
"Many people were made landless by the colonialists. They have not
gone to grab forestland," Wekesa said, adding that even some of
his Kwanza constituents were landless, but had not encroached the
land in Cherangany Forest.
The minister was speaking at Migori Teachersí College during the
institutionís 23rd graduation at the weekend.