Archive 2002

 

Moi issues new decree on forests
by John Kamau, Rights Features Service

(February 22, 2002) In a rare communiqué from State House, Kenya's president Daniel arap Moi yesterday evening ceased the allocation of government land, and in effect stopped the intended excision of an approximated 10 percent of Kenya's forest cover.

But Kenyan activists quickly dismissed the presidential statement as ineffective.

"That statement has no legal force. As it stands now it remains a political statement," said People Against Torture lobby group lawyer, Mr. Kibe Mungai.

The presidential directive followed a spirited campaign by both local and international organizations, which have voiced concern over the excision and also about the fate of the Ogiek indigenous community who live in the Mau Forest. The Forest is slated to lose 70 per cent of its cover.

In the statement released by the Presidential Press Service (PPS), Moi said that the presidential decree will remain in force until the government takes policy decision based on recommendations of a commission of inquiry which has been going around the country collecting the Kenyan people's views on land.

The Ogiek presented their views to the Njonjo Commission. In a separate interview with Mr. Joseph Towett, the Ogiek Welfare Council spokesperson, the Ogiek said Moi should have "nullified the irregular" land allocations.

"By saying he has stopped it means that people will keep what they have already grabbed. Moi should have nullified the irregular allocations which is the bottom line," said Towett.

A powerful statement with questionable promise

This is the second time in four years that Moi has issued such a directive on land allocation. In 1998, he ordered that all illegally allocated land be repossessed but nothing came out of the decree.

"This is simply propaganda. Moi wants to pass the buck and show the world that it is his administrators who are failing him," said lawyer Kibe Mungai, who has also appeared for the Ogiek in court.

The Njonjo Commission is led by a former Attorney-General, Charles Njonjo and is expected to address the national land policy, customary laws, and their relevance to land law system.

Moi lamented in his statement that "indiscriminate land allocation was resulting to grave irregularities in the administration of land matters." He said that the situation has led to loss of public land and depletion of forests.

The Ogiek said that they hope the presidential order will not mean that their case will have to wait until the Njonjo Commission finishes its work in July.

"We hope that this will not interfere with our court case," said Towett. Yesterday, the High Court in Nairobi rescheduled the Ogiek case hearing to April 23 since the government had not filed a defense on the case.

The Ogiek want the court to stop the government from enacting parts of Mau forest occupied by the Ogiek to resettle other communities.

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BBC

Thursday, 21 February, 2002, 22:22 GMT
Kenya halts land allocation
President Daniel arap Moi of Kenya
Moi is waiting for the land law commission's report
Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi has frozen the allocation of publicly-owned land to private individuals or businesses, in an effort to end illegal land grabbing.

A decision to resume the programme will be taken after a land commission set up three years ago submits its final report, probably in October.

The president acknowledged that current practices had resulted in grave irregularities and raised serious concerns.

President Moi said the situation had led to the serious depletion of forests, wildlife corridors and amenity land.

Kenya forest
Kenya's forests have been shrinking
Correspondents say members of the government have been regularly accused of giving government land to party supporters and sympathisers.

Town and city councillors throughout the country are also regularly accused of grabbing public land to sell for profit.

The 78-year-old president, who has been in power for 23 years, said in some instances land had been allocated illegally.

The commission of inquiry into the land law system which he appointed in November 1999 was, among other things, given the task of undertaking a broad view of land issues in the country and recommending the main principles of land policy framework.

Scepticism

This framework would foster an economically efficient, socially equitable and environmentally sustainable land tenure and land use system, President Moi said.

However, the country's environmentalists say that he has stopped short of revoking the allocation of forests.

The Kenya Forests Working Group - a consortium of international and national NGOs, conservationists, businesspeople and government departments - is campaigning against a decision made two years ago to remove government protection for about 167,000 acres of forest.

Correspondents say that land grabbing is more rife before elections because cash-strapped candidates rely on land as their main resource.

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