IMPORTANCE OF MAU
The Mau Forest Complex forms the largest closed-canopy forest ecosystem in Kenya, as large as the forests of Mt Kenya and the Aberdares combined.
Being one of the five water towers in Kenya and the single most important water catchment in Rift Valley and Western Kenya, it is a natural asset of national importance.
Its forests form the upper catchments of 12 main rivers that drain into five major lakes: Baringo, Nakuru, Natron, Turkana, and Victoria.
Three of these lakes are international water bodies: Natron (Kenya / Tanzania), Turkana (Kenya / Ethiopia) and Victoria (Kenya / Tanzania / Uganda).
By Kipchumba Kemei
ODM strategists have gone into panic mode after the Mau forest resettlement fiasco took fresh dimensions with potential threats that could wipe out the little gains the party has made in the Rift Valley.
In a week full of political drama, a section of Rift Valley MPs who had stuck with Prime Minister Raila Odinga even after their colleagues defected along with Eldoret North MP William Ruto, dropped the bombshell that they could be on their way out of the Orange party.
Assistant ministers Magerer Langat (pictured left) (Energy), Beatrice Kones (Home Affairs) and Sotik MP Joyce Laboso (picture left) said they were not happy with the Prime Minister over the delay in resettling the 5,000 families evicted from Mau Forest to give room for the rehabilitation of the country’s biggest water tower.
The MPs first resigned from the Mau resettlement task force, dealing a blow to the multi-billion shillings project, then later threatened to move to court to force the Government to resettle the evictees.
They charged that the Government was taking too long to purchase land for the people who were kicked out of south west Mau bloc of the larger 400,000-hectare complex.
Although he did not accompany the MPs when they issued the ultimatum, Roads minister Franklin Bett is said to be supporting their moves. He has also publicly complained about the delay in resettling the evictees.
Analysts say ODM would be doomed in the Rift Valley should the MPs leave. It would leave Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s campaign team in the South Rift punctured.
Perhaps this is what prompted the PM to convene a meeting of ministers from his half of the coalition in office mid this week after the Mau issue exploded.
Meeting with PM
Mr Odinga also summoned representatives of the evicted families for a meeting to discuss the matter. The PM’s spokesman, Dennis Onyango was quoted as confirming the meeting with the families, next week.
Although Mr Langat, one of Mr Odinga’s fiercest defenders in the South Rift denied any plans to defect from ODM, the region is abuzz with talk that he and his colleagues were preparing to join another party — either Mr Ruto’s United Republican Party (URP) or the United Democratic Movement (UDM).