News 2008


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 Mau Forest.

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.

strong resistance

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 individuals.

"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 national interests.

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 production.

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.

special treatment

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.