News 2008


Mau forest: State cannot have the cake and eat it



Mau Forest, which is the source of 12 major rivers, is undoubtedly our priceless and most important water tower. The question of whether human habitation and degradation of any nature, including felling trees for sawmilling business, should be allowed should not even arise. Destruction through logging, excisions and encroachment of this fragile ecosystem is a matter of life and death.

Probably as a ghastly harbinger of things to come, the Government has already cancelled the commissioning of Sondu Miriu Hydro-Electric Station because of low water levels. The dam on the Lake Victoria Basin is fed through water sources in the Mau Forest, hundreds of kilometres away.

The same fate, of falling water levels, has been reported in Lake Nakuru and Mara Serengeti, which again are not only priceless wildlife sanctuary onto which our economy is anchored, but also rely on the Mau Forest’s ecosystem. Its instability and destruction is foolish, negligent and suicidal for the nation.

Sad as it is, the grim consequences of our inaction, bickering and grandstanding, are already being felt. We are already living the gloom of its wanton destruction, even as politicians play ping-pong with each other, through hate speeches and threats laced with tribal overtones. Already there is a multi-sectoral commission working on a quick and peaceful resolution to the issue that has been aggravated by the decision by the previous regime to settle ‘landless’ people in the water tower.

Of course no one is talking about the rich and mighty, who disguised themselves as landless under the cover of hidden companies, and walked away with hundreds of acres that are now tea bushes. But it galls the heart to imagine that in the 400,000-acre forest, we can satiate the greed of all of us. It is unimaginable the human catastrophe we are courting. Already the United Nations Environmental Programme has worked out our daily loss from wanton destruction of the Mau Forest — Sh2.1 million!

Outrageous pronouncements

Even as the inter-ministerial consultative committee works on the relocation of the 3,000 families illegally settled in the region, it is contemptuous for the nation that a section of the political leadership has reduced this spectacle into a Maasai-Kipsigis affair.

It is worse that one of the minister has given the Government — as if he is not part of it — 90 days to evict those settled in the area or his community would do it.

It smacks of heartlessness and impunity that a minister can be allowed to run away with murder, having casually dropped the line that, “just the other day we finished 600 across there.’’

He then adds that may be it would be wiser for the leaders on either side to amass troops and fight it out in the open. Nothing could be more perilous to the rule of law and constitutionalism to which we claim to be our roadmap to daily existence than such pronouncement by leaders. Whereas there is no doubt we are precipitating a humanitarian crisis, we must never act outside the orbit of the law. So too must we restrain the politicians on the other side who, in the name of those facing eviction, have also began layering their demands with acrid tribal talk.

Finally we must demand that the Government settles this problem once and for all, in a manner devoid of politics. It was after all this regime that crudely executed the evictions and finally, at the onset of the campaigns last year, invited those thrown out back. This Government must be reminded: You can’t have your cake and eat it!