State must pull out all the stops to save Mau


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Debate about eviction of illegal settlers in the Mau Forest complex has taken a dangerous political twist and risks derailing the exercise.

A section of political leaders from the Rift Valley have resorted to threats and intimidation, inciting the settlers against the government and openly preparing ground for confrontation.

That is not acceptable. A few reckless leaders cannot hold the entire country to ransom.

Restoration of Mau Forest is an existential imperative. The vast destruction of the forest in the past two decades has led to near-extinction of wildlife and vegetation and with devastating consequences.

Mau is the source of 12 rivers that flow southwards, some to Lake Victoria, but all of which are drying up fast as the forest recedes due to human encroachment.

Mara River, for example, renowned for the wildebeest migration that is a huge tourist attraction, is on its deathbed.


Once a lush greenery covering some 400,000 hectares, the forest has lost an estimated 100,000 hectares in recent years due to irregular allocation of its land and illegal settlement.

The cost of environmental degradation is enormous and, unless stopped, portends a huge risk to the economy.

Yet some politicians are blind to this or, simply, do not care. Every time attempts are made to recover and restore the forest, they rise up in arms and incite communities to resist the effort.

Many mistakes were made in the past. Some people were given titles for the land they had been irregularly allocated.

Public institutions such as schools were put up in the forest — which is what the politicians are using to advance the argument that the occupation of such land is legitimate. Such wrongs must be fixed.

Whatever it takes, the government must clear the forest of the illegal occupants. But this must be done in a humane manner.

The government has to avoid the use of force against citizens, some of them hapless and innocent victims of a rogue system in the past.

Among others, it has to find alternative schools for the children being moved from the forest so that they can continue learning undisturbed.

Equally, it has to devise a strategy of revitalising the forest once it relocates the squatters.

However, meddling politicians who seek to derail the restoration plan must be dealt with according to the law.

They cannot be allowed to impose their will on the people. Inciting the residents to violence so as to settle selfish political scores is unacceptable.

The culture of impunity has to end. This is why we ask the government to deploy all resources to clear Mau Forest of all illegal occupants and activities and, hence, save it from extinction.

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