Plan to settle Mau Forest evictees hits headwinds


By GEORGE SAYAGIE
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Rift Valley politicians are facing headwinds in their plan to settle Mau families on a piece of land they bought in Narok South Sub-county.

The leaders in December identified different pieces of land totalling 68 acres in Tendwet, Sogoo and Ololulunga for the temporary resettlement of some of the 10,000 evicted families.

The land they bought is in Segemian (20 acres), Melelo (10 acres), Ololulunga (15 Acres) and Sogoo (23 Acres) all along the forest block.

But an announcement by the government, through Rift Valley Regional Coordinator George Natembeya, says any land for those evicted from Maasai Mau Forest must be at least 10km from the cutline.

Mr Natembeya claimed those buying land for the evictees have hatched a scheme to undermine the government’s efforts to restore the forest.

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“We will not allow evictees to settle less than 10km from the forest boundary so they can desist from the temptation to go back and carry on with the activities they did before evictions,” he said.

Mr Natembeya further said the land that was bought was insufficient for the large number of evictees and that this will lead to an informal settlement, which is not recommended for a rural setting.

The administrator also announced that the government was in the process of flashing out settlers from Marmanet, Embobut and Kaptagat forests in a broad mission to regain the lost forest land.

“We will not relent until this happens,” he said in Narok County on Thursday after visiting security teams in the restored area and monitoring tree planting.

In response to Mr Natembeya’s announcement, Emurua Dikirr MP Johanna Ng’eno accused the government of intimidation, harassment and trying to stop the resettlement.

The outspoken Kanu lawmaker said their intention is to settle families that vacated the 17,101 acres that the government declared forest land, since they have nowhere to go until the government “becomes sober and settle them”.

“We bought the land to temporarily shelter Mau evictees, who are in absolute distress and don’t have alternative land, until this government becomes sober or is kicked out of power and we get another government ready to hear its people,” said Mr Ng’eno.

It is not clear how much money the leaders put into the resettlement plan.

The political class in the region has been urging the government to compensate or offer the evictees alternative land but the government says they had homes before they were duped into buying forest land.

Last week, the resettlement dispute took a fresh turn after the Directorate of Criminal Investigations summoned nine people over claims they flouted laws National Environment Management Authority when settling the families.

Among those quizzed were Ololung’a MCA Jefferson Lang’at, former Narok senatorial aspirant Albert Kiplang’at (National Vision Party) and Mr Ng’eno’s assistant, Carlos Keter.

Others were officials who had been coordinating the resettlement.

“We summoned them after receiving reports that the families bought land near the forest and wanted to settle there. We want to know whether they breached any Nema laws,” said Narok County Criminal Investigating Officer Ethaiba Mwenda.

Mr Ng’eno, the lawyer representing the nine, said the summonsed were meant to frustrate those evicted from the forest, and that there is no law barring people from establishing a slum or a refugee camp anywhere in the country.

The government kicked out the families during phase two of evictions and planted trees on the more than 20,000 hectares of land that were recovered.

Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko launched the reforestation drive, with the distribution of 10 million seedlings.

Thirteen tree species were planted on 3,000 hectares using the aerial seedling technology.

The first phase of the evictions, that was completed in 2018, saw 4,500 hectares reclaimed in the area that stretches from Nkoben to Kosia.


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