Archive 2002

Kenyan president a beneficiary of Ogiek land, claims newspaper
by John Kamau, Rights Features Service

(January 23, 2002) Less than a month before the Ogiek case comes up at the Kenyan High Court, some members of Kenya's parliament have asked the president to reconvene parliament immediately to discuss the allocations of Kenya forests.

This comes in the wake of a disclosure by a leading Kenyan newspaper that President Daniel arap Moi is one of the beneficiaries of the Mau Forest land, where the Ogiek reside.

The Ogiek, a Kenyan indigenous people, are fighting to remain in the forest, which they claim is their ancestral home. The government is forcing them out, allegedly to protect the environment. But the Ogiek pose no environmental threat. Their case will be heard in court on February 21, 2002.

The Kenyan Daily Nation recently disclosed that they had acquired Ministry documents which revealed that prominent individuals had received allocations of forest land.

The list of beneficiaries reads like a "who's who" of Kenyan politics: President Moi allegedly received 2,317 acres; environemntal minister Joseph Kamotho received 6 acres; former First Lady Mama Ngina Kenyatta received 82.5 acres; and political activist Kuria Kanyingi got 24 acres.

According to the Daily Nation, this current attempt by the government to excise an estimated 167,000 acres of forest was a belated attempt to legitimize illegal allocations ahead of the enactment of a more stringent Forest Bill. The bill gives parliament the right to sanction alterations of forest boundaries, and is expected to be published and debated during the next parliamentary session.

"Now that it is evident that the whole Government, including the head of executive, is involved in the whole saga, they should apologize to Kenyans and resign in shame. This is the climax of all the evils that could have been done in this country'' says Mwangi Kiunjuri, an MP who took a motion to parliament last year calling on the government to protect forest land.

Legislator Wanyiri Kihoro has proposed that the next government should recover all the land and restore it to forest irrespective of who had bought it.

"The government has been justifying degazettement of forest land on the basis that squatters will be settled on it. But it is a pity that the land has gone to some of the largest landowners in the country," said Kihoro.

It is not clear whether Moi will reconvene parliament before March but the current revelations will no doubt resurface at the House.

Elsewhere, environmentalists are annoyed that senior government officials and politically correct individuals are the beneficiaries of the forest land allocations, and that the so-called "landless and squatters" happen to be the richest people in Kenya.

In a statement released from parliament building, the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Land, Environment and Natural Resources, asked President Daniel arap Moi to reconvene parliament before March to resolve the problem.

"We want the House recalled immediately to discuss this urgent business because even before we went on recess, we had planned to overfly all the forests to verify the facts from the grounds, whether or not excision was taking place and its extent,'' said the Committee.

Kenya's Environment Minister Joseph Kamotho, has declined to comment on the continuing logging and destruction of forests, especially in the Mau Forest where the Ogiek community might lose their home bases if the forest is cleared. The government has—through a gazette notice—threatened to excise some 70 percent of the Mau Forest to "settle the landless" but the Ogiek see it as an invasion of their traditional hunting grounds.

Meanwhile, members of the Ogiek community took to the streets this week to demonstrate their anger over the continued destruction of Mau Forest, a matter that has dominated local media for the best part of this week.

They blocked the road leading to the forest but were dispersed by police.