27 June 2005

Kenya: Ntimama And Uhuru Face Off Over Mau Forest

Nairobi — Cabinet Minister William ole Ntimama was yesterday accused of inciting youths to burn vehicles carrying relief food to thousands of people evicted from Mau Forest.

Speaking at a rally in Narok South, nine Kanu MPs asked the Government to immediately take action against the minister.

Office of the President minister William Ntimama is escorted by ex-chief Samuel Koriata and Margaret Rapash when he arrived for a meeting at Nappopili in Narok District on Saturday.

And Ntimama told The Standard that a group of 'tribal' MPs was inciting people to get relief food in the restricted area to draw sympathy.

"We will stop them if they dare venture across the marked forest boundary," said Ntimama.

The MPs led by Kanu chairman Uhuru listened to harrowing tales from victims on the torture they went through.

Some threatened to defend themselves because the Government had 'forsaken' them.

Others claimed yesterday evening Red Cross lorries carrying relief food were turned away at Tendwet, Narok South, by security personnel.

The bitter Kanu legislators condemned Ntimama and asked the Government to arrest him, claiming he was out to drive communities in Narok District to clashes.

"Action should be taken against Ntimama before communities in Narok fight each other. We demand that he be arrested", they said.

Uhuru said the encroachment on Mau Forest began when he was the Narok County Council chairman in 1975.

He claimed that in that year, the minister arm-twisted the council to allocate people, some who were his political supporters, the controversial catchment area and wondered why he was turning around to demand their eviction.

Ntimama, however, said "not even a toothpick" was removed from the Masai Mau Forest when he served at the council between 1973-83.

Uhuru condemned the eviction saying the manner in which it was handled was inhuman and has never been witnessed before in independent Kenya.

He wondered why Kenyans were clamouring for a new constitution when the government has failed to follow the current one to the latter.

Uhuru said: "If the government has failed to respect the constitution and trampled on the rights of its people, then what is left now is for Kenyans to take the law into their hands".

The President, he said, was elected on a popular platform to respect the constitution but he has miserably failed and he should now quit the office.

Mau eviction, he said, was being driven by hatred adding that before Narc term in office ends, many Kenyans would have lost property and lives.

Other MPs present were Kanu Secretary General William Ruto, Nick Salat, Henry Kosgey, Moses Cheboi, Joseph Nkaisserry, Charles Ketter and Stephen ole Ntutu, the host.

Ruto said the Mau eviction violated the law and warned Kenya was slowly sliding to anarchy.

They asked those whose people were evicted to quit the government in protest saying it was pointless to serve a system that was subjecting their kin to suffering.

And when speaking at Sogoo, Ruto, Keter and Salat said ministers John Koech, Kipruto Kirwa, Lina Kilimo, Stephen Tarus, Kipkalia Kones were traitors.

"They should seek audience with the President and tell him of the suffering their people were undergoing.

Ruto said his supporters would not back the government because "it was responsible for the suffering of people in Narok South"

He cited cases where he claimed the government had gone against the wishes of its people. He claimed those advising the President to sustain the evictions were the same one who triggered clashes in 1992.

The President, he said, should remove them from the government because they were going to make him fail adding that a change of government was now inevitable.

The Eldoret North MP told victims of the eviction to keep their title deeds safe because the Kanu MPs would do all they can to ensure they go back to their farms.

Cheboi said people living in Mau were genuinely sold land on willing-seller-willing-buyer basis and wondered why they were being referred to as squatters.

Nkaisserry said Kenyans were tired of the suffering, including the economic hardship they were undergoing.

Keter told the victims to return to their farms saying it was sad that 33 churches and several registered primary schools were among structures burnt by security personnel.

Ntutu wondered why the Government went begging for food when it was destroying crops in Mau.

He told Ntimama to keep off the affairs of his constituency and asked him to first clear his name in the Akiwumi report on tribal clashes that rocked the country in 1991/1992 period.

"I want to tell Ntimama to respect political boundaries. If his political fortunes are dwindling, he should quit politics before more people die or suffer in ethnic violence because of his actions," he said.

Responding, Ntimama said he would visit the area any time he wishes as long as he was not in breach of the law.

Reacting to Tinderet MP Henry Kosgey's call that to the "refugees" to go back to their farms, Ntimama said the only alternative was for Kosgey to settle them in Nandi forest.

Uhuru donated 1,000 blankets, 600 bales of flour and gave a personal donation of Sh100,000 to the victims of the eviction.

Keiyo South MP Nicholas Biwott sent Sh50,000 through Salat. Lands Minister Amos Kimunya is on record declaring the evictions, triggered by environmental concerns, were irreversible.

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