16 July 2018

Kenya: State Seeks MPs Nod in Plan to Hive Off Mount Elgon Forest

The government is seeking the approval of the National Assembly to degazette 4,607 hectares of Mount Elgon forest for the resettlement of the Sabaot community, a move that has already run into headwinds with environmentalists and politicians spoiling for a battle to protect the water tower.

In a petition signed by Cabinet Secretaries Keriako Tobiko (Environment and Forestry) and Farida Karoney (Lands and Physical Planning) and approved by the Cabinet, the executive wants MPs to approve the alteration of the forest boundary in line with the Forest Conservation and Management Act of 2016, which allows any person to petition the National Assembly or Senate for alteration as long as the grounds are convincing.

The planned de-gazettement comprises Phases II and III of Chepyuk Settlement Scheme in the forest reserve within Cheptais Forest Station in Bungoma County.

RESETTLEMENT

The move is meat to allow the resettlement of the Soy (Sabaot) and Dorobo (Mosop) communities to resolve historical land injustices, reduce security conflicts and spur local development.

National Assembly speaker Justin Muturi committed the petition to the departmental committees on Lands and that on Environment and Natural Resources for joint consideration within 60 days of its reading on the floor on July 5.

"A Petition of this nature is new to the House, being one that emanates from the executive having been approved by the Cabinet," Mr Muturi said.

PUBLIC FOREST

"The committees should guide the House, by way of a report, on whether the petition satisfies the requirements of law relating to the grounds for variation of the boundaries of a public forest, having ensured sufficient public participation with relevant stakeholders as required by the law," Mr Muturi said.

But even as the government verifies the true inhabitants of Chepyuk II and III settlement schemes and for how long they have lived there some, politicians from Western region have opposed the move urging the MPs to reject the petition, which requires a simple majority of the 349 MPs for approval.

Nasa leaders Musalia Mudavadi, Moses Wetang'ula and former Kakamega senator Boni Khalwale say the government is using the squatters as an excuse to benefit a few politically correct individuals.

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