25 June 2018

Kenya: Standoff on Mau Forest as Fresh Evictions Loom

Deputy President William Ruto has supported the planned evictions of more than 2,400 settlers from the Mau Forest Complex.

Speaking yesterday during a fundraiser at Sogoo High School in Narok South, Mr Ruto said: "In the Mau Forest, we have marked boundaries. I want all those who have gone beyond the boundaries to move out immediately. Mimi sitaki mchezo (I am not joking)."

However, the Ogiek have urged President Uhuru Kenyatta to stop the planned evictions and help implement a judgment made last year by the Arusha-based African Court on Human and People's Rights. They also urged him to form a multi-agency team to conclusively deal with issues of land ownership and environmental degradation.


Speaking yesterday in Nakuru, the community's leaders led by Council of Elders chairman Joseph Towett urged President Kenyatta to involve all relevant ministries and stakeholders in resolving contentious issues within the complex. "Mau Forest issues need a permanent solution. We appeal to President Kenyatta to constitute a multi-agency team that will handle and resolve all contentious matters," said Mr Towett.

In the May 2017 ruling, the Arusha court said the Kenyan government had violated the rights of the community by evicting them from their ancestral land in the Rift Valley. It also said the Ogieks were not consulted on the evictions.

The ruling -- the culmination of a five-year legal battle -- was a major victory for the Ogiek following repeated evictions.


The court told the government "to take all appropriate measures within a reasonable time-frame to remedy all the violations established" and inform it of the progress within six months. It told the Ogiek to file their requests for reparations within two months.

The Ogiek made yesterday's appeal a week after the Kenya Forest Service (KFS), Narok Commissioner George Natembeya, Kenya Water Towers Agency and the county government ordered the over 2,400 settlers to pull down their homes and leave the forest.

The planned evictions were, however, put off temporarily last week by the government after a standoff between KFS and Narok Governor Samuel Tunai.

KFS Chief Conservator Monica Kalenda (below) and Mr Natembeya accused the settlers, most of whom are Ogieks, of encroaching on Kosia, Sasimua and Ilpolton areas of the forest. Already, Narok leaders have differed on the evictions.


While some leaders have opposed the evictions, Narok North MP Moitalel Ole Kenta said the evictions must continue if the future of Kenya's largest water tower is to be safeguarded.

Although Governor Tunai has not announced his stand on the issue, sources say he does not support the evictions. According to a source, the governor's intervention last week made the security team to call off the planned evictions.

Speaking on phone, Mr Kenta said politics should be divorced from environmental conservation. He claimed that settlements in Mau will not end until after the 2022 polls and accused Mr Tunai of lacking moral authority to stop the evictions. On Friday, KF Chairman Peter Kinyua reiterated the agency's resolve to reinforce county government rangers and other enforcement teams to flush out loggers and illegal settlers.


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