And the owners of the multimillion-shilling illegal developments, some of them multi-storey residential apartments, lavish homes and business premises in parts of Lang’ata and Racecourse, will not be compensated.
Some of the flagged estates include Royal Park, Sunvalley I and II, Lang’ata Gardens, Langa’ta View Gardens, Forest Edge, Kenya Medical Association Estate and St Mary’s Hospital, as well as others in Racecourse where land was annexed for foreign commercial developments.
Environment and Forestry Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko said efforts to reclaim the illegally acquired land would “commence immediately”. Mr Tobiko told occupants of the land to surrender or face “Mau Forest-like wrath”.
He said fencing off of the forest will begin in a couple of months. “I’m hereby declaring the immediate commencement of the recovery process of the land in the Ngong Road Forest that has over the years been illegally acquired,” Mr Tobiko said last Friday.
This, he added, followed a directive by President Kenyatta.
“His order is to forthwith move in and reclaim all areas of this forest other than the areas that were validly degazetted and lawfully excised for public purposes,” he said. “All the other parcels of this forest, whether the people on them have title deeds or not, whether they have built houses and apartments or business structures on them or not, will have their titles revoked.
“We’ve been instructed to start fencing the forest as per the original forest area of more than 3,700 acres,” he said at Ngong Road Forest, where he and other senior officials from his ministry and the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) did an aerial survey of the forest.
The CS had earlier presided over the handover of some 26 off-road vehicles for the Green Zone project funded by the government and Africa Development Bank at Sh155 million, and rangers’ housing units built by China Road and Bridge Corporation.
The Green Zone project, now in its second phase, is a Sh5 billion project that will run for the next six years.
Mr Tobiko said the President had also directed his ministry and KFS to provide a connection between the forest and the Nairobi National Park to mitigate pressure facing wildlife at the severely stressed park.
“Once we’ve reclaimed the land, we shall fence it off using wildlife proof material. We will create a corridor that will open the entire area for wildlife,” he said.
At gazettement in 1932, the forest measured 7,239 acres. Just after independence in 1964, when the forest was declared a central forest, it had shrunk by nearly half to 3,722.5 acres due to further excisions. By 1978 it had contracted even more to 3,274.57 acres.
DN body text: Decades later, the forest was hived off again by some unscrupulous people in collusion with Ardhi House operatives, leaving only 2,443.37 acres in 1996 and 1,330.39 acres in 1999.
The ministry says the land grabbers aren’t done yet. “We’re privy to further intentions to hive off an additional 409 acres from the forest,” said Mr Evans Kegode, KFS chief surveyor, who spoke at the request of the CS. This would leave only 923.4 acres to the forest.
Now the government says it’s going to disregard the fraudulently issued titles to protect the correct area under the forest.
“We’ll go by the legal notice that gazetted the forest, and not the titles to recover the land, and those who bought can go and recover their money from whoever sold the land to them. A number are using front companies, but we know who they are. We’re not going to spend our time ‘squabbling’ with anybody; we will simply fence you in and release the animals,” the CS said.
He added: “We’ll not bother ourselves taking anybody to court. Whoever holds a purported title knows it is not worth the paper it is written on. So don’t wait for us to fence you in.”
Mr Tobiko said a huge part of the forest had been grabbed by individuals using various proxies and entities.
“If we dealt with the hot potato that was Mau Forest that was many times more complicated and politically sensitive, this is a small thing,” Mr Tobiko said when asked how the government would handle the fightback from those claiming to own the land, some of who are powerful, well-connected individuals.
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