News 2008


New settlers moving into Mau, warn MPs



Wednesday, July 23 2008

Thousands of people are trooping into Mau forest with the hope of benefiting from the planned Government resettlement of illegal farmers, Maasai leaders claimed on Tuesday.

Heritage and Culture minister William ole Ntimama warned that his community would not sit back and watch as Mau, the biggest water catchment in the region, is destroyed.

“We are not cowards. We will defend our rights...We have kept quiet because we are law-abiding citizens,” Mr Ntimama said.

Addressing journalists at his Kencom House office in Nairobi, Mr Ntimama who was flanked by MPs Nkoidila ole Lankas (Narok South) and Gideon Konchella (Kilgoris) urged the Government to immediately secure Mau forest otherwise, he says, “there will be no tree left standing in the next 90 days.”

People living in Mau have until October to vacate. The Government has also that it will only resettle 1,960 people with title deeds.

Large groups

However, according to the minister, large groups of new settlers are moving into the forest to cash in on the impending resettlement.

The legislators, who were accompanied by three councillors and other leaders, said that rivers with their sources in Mau were drying up, affecting pastoralists and wildlife in Kajiado, Narok and Tanzania.

Mr Lankas demanded that the Government acts fast and stops the movement of people into the 400,000-hectare Mau Complex. The ODM MP said that only those with title deeds should be allowed to stay as they await resettlement.

Mr Konchella of PNU called for the fencing of Mau Complex to stop any further encroachment.

The former Cabinet minister also asked the Government to deploy the police and forest guards to prevent people from entering the forest.

Mr Konchella said a task force formed to help address problems facing Mau should also find ways of stopping destruction of Trans Mara forest.

In an apparent reference to Kipsigis community leaders opposed to the planned evictions, Mr Ntimama said it was unfortunate that the issue had been politicised and ethnicised.

But the three leaders hailed Mr Odinga’s efforts to secure and protect the forest and supported Monday’s formation of a task force to address the Mau dispute.

Separately, the Kalenjin Students Association also supported efforts by Mr Odinga to restore Mau.

The students said that it was wrong for some Rift Valley MPs to oppose the restoration of Mau for the benefit of future generations.

At the same time, the United Nations Environmental Programme has said that more than $300 million (about Sh20 billion) worth of tea, tourism and energy could be lost if the Mau Complex continued to be degraded and destroyed.

Unep Executive Director Achim Steiner said that the body has been documenting continued destruction and erosion of the Mau ecosystem for the past few years.