13 July 2005

Kenya: MPs Condemn Mau Forest Evictions

Nairobi — Twenty six Rift Valley MPs have distanced themselves from the Government's decision to continue evictions in Mau Forest.

They spoke a day after they met Internal Security minister John Michuki and appeared to have come to an agreement on the evictions.

Yesterday, however, they rejected the minister's statement that evictions would continue and vowed to lead their people back to "their land for which they genuinely hold titles".

The MPs said they would not be party to any agreement with the Government and would not take part in an 18-man committee appointed on Monday night to resolve the issue.

Mr Michuki announced the launch of the committee after a meeting with 24 MPs from the region.

Yesterday, their spokesman, Mr Henry Kosgey, said they would neither appoint the six members to sit on the committee nor attend another meeting slated for tomorrow. The meeting was also to be attended by the Environment and Local Government ministers.

Instead, they would lead their people back to the land, which they said was trust land legally acquired. A tentative date to return them was set for Saturday.

The committee was to establish the genuineness of each title deed, and whether the holders were residing in forest or trust land.

Said Mr Kosgey: "We did not agree that evictions would continue. In fact we were not party to that statement."

After the meeting with MPs, Mr Michuki said the programme of removing people from forests and grabbed public land throughout the country would continue "to its logical conclusion".

The MPs said those evicted held genuine titles which could only be revoked through a court process.

And they warned that Government statements claiming the titles were not genuine were a recipe for "chaos, anarchy and lawlessness".

Mr Kosgey said: "The evictions are illegal and are being carried out without any regard to the law and are in contempt of the court orders in force."

He said the community would hold the Government accountable and responsible for the losses incurred by those evicted.

The Tinderet MP, who read the statement on behalf of his colleagues who included assistant minister Kipkalya Kones, Keiyo South MP Nicholas Biwott and Kanu secretary-general William Ruto, asked the Government to start compensating the people immediately.

The MPs asked those evicted not to register with the provincial administration as proposed by the Government.

Instead, they said, any verification should be done by land registries.

Mr Kosgey said they would only deal with the Government if it first respected the rule of law.

Mr Michuki had said the evictions were not tribal, and had been implemented in Mt Kenya and Mt Elgon forests, but the MPs said: "The Government should with immediate effect stop these heinous, callous, tribal, selective and illegal evictions."

As they spoke, the Government yesterday donated Sh4.9 million to supplement free education to 1,449 pupils whose parents were displaced during the Mau Forest eviction last month.

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