7 July 2005

Kenya: Fresh Hope for Revised Forests Bill

Nairobi — The controversial forests Bill has been revised and will be tabled in Parliament for debate next week.

Environment minister Kalonzo Musyoka said yesterday that differences in the ruling coalition had been ironed out to allow republication.

Feuding in Narc saw the Government Bill defeated when it was introduced in October, but the minister said most MPs had promised to back it when it is retabled on Thursday.

"The revised version addresses issues raised when MPs first rejected it," he said.

The Bill has been redrafted to incorporate local community concerns about forests, he said.

The Forest Bill 2004 was tabled by the Environment minister at the time, Dr Newton Kulundu, and after its defeat, it would be brought back to the House only after six months.

Yesterday, however, Mr Musyoka said it now seeks to allow people living within degraded environments to take part in their rehabilitation.

Besides the involvement of the local communities in rehabilitation and giving them access to forest products, issues included in the amended Bill comprise the shamba system in which people are allowed to grow crops in the forests as they protect them, the establishment of the Kenya Forest Service and involving Parliament in excisions.

LDP backbenchers and some Ford Kenya MPs had joined hands with Kanu in rejecting the Bill last year.

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