Monday, January 14, 2002
Plot to Legalise Forest Excisions
controversial degazettement of 167,000 acres of forest land in
Kenya was meant to regularise the excisions of forests that had
been going on in the country for the past two decades.
validation was meant to leave the beneficiaries in the clear ahead
of the enactment of a forest law that will require further
excisions to be approved by parliament. Legalisation is also
important since a new government is likely to take over after
President Daniel arap Moi's term ends at the end of this year.
The list of
the beneficiaries reads like who-is-who in the Kenya government.
Documents made available to The EastAfrican from the Forest
Department show that in 1988, a high-ranking politician was
allocated 2,300 acres of Transmara, a largely indigenous forest in
the Rift Valley province, for farming.
excisions covering 355,680 acres of forest land that benefited
individuals, organisations and communities are shown to have been
effected by September 2000.
of these allocations were not officially ratified," said Mr
Michael Wairagu, a consultant in environment and resource planning.
"Part of the excised land had been initially hived off under
the now moribund Nyayo Tea Zones project."
excisions were authorised either by the Commissioner of Lands or
the Minister for Environment and Natural Resources after being
initiated by the Chief Conservator of Forests or the Permanent
Secretaries in the Ministries of Lands and Settlement or
last year, the government published its intention to excise
167,000 hectares from 14 forests ostensibly for settling squatters,
but the documents show that the process had started far much
earlier. In 1999, for instance, the Ministry of Lands and
Settlement had initiated the subdivision of 87,000 acres of
eastern and southwestern Mau forests into 18,722 plots.
intention was to form 14 settlement schemes for the Ogiek/Dorobo
communities. Eventually, the resettlement programme encroached on
106,000 acres of indigenous and plantation forests for unexplained
of the many excisions listed include schools, churches,
individuals like politicians, ministers and other top government
the documents say that the March 1999 excision of 86 acres of the
indigenous south Nandi Forest near Kobujoi market in Nandi
district was requested by a top paramilitary police unit boss for
settling people "displaced by the new Kapkolei Girls
Secondary School." Excision documents were issued in August
2000 after the requisite approvals.
instances, the Forest Department could not establish on whose
authority the excisions were made. A Kiambu politician is reported
to have cleared 59 acres of trees in the Kiambu Forest for growing
documents, it is clear that the controversy surrounding the
excision of the Onturiri Forest in Meru Central district last year
arose from a government order to resettle 1,154 families from the
high altitude Nyayo Settlement Scheme to the 1,980 acres of the
Onturiri Forest Station on the lower slopes of Mount Kenya.
squatters, assisted by Prof Wangari Maathai's Green Belt Movement,
petitioned the government's decision to relocate them from an area
they had lived in for 16 years. The matter is now in court.
documents also details how Karura Forest in Nairobi has been
losing its greenery over time. The allocation of the forest was at
the centre of violent clashes between the police and environmental
activists in January 1999 which resulted in the burning down of
heavy construction equipment on the site.
documents, Karura initially lost 64 acres of natural forest in
1982 when a 99-year lease was granted to Tumaini School that did
not take off. Later, the land was divided into small parcels and
allocated to individuals, including an army major and a former
later, 6.7 acres were allocated to a Cabinet Minister. In 1994, a
construction company associated with the daughter of a top
politician was allocated 44 acres of land. However, no legal
notice has been issued because the excision is being contested by
Karura forest may also have been parcelled out to individuals
following the expiry of a 1952 lease of 15 acres to the defunct
Wanderers Cricket Club in 1993. Although the land was supposed to
revert to the forestry department, it is shown to have been
allocated to unamed beneficiaries.
Link : http://www.nationaudio.com/News/EastAfrican/21012002/Regional/Regional04.html