An eviction notice has been issued to more than 300 families who have encroached on the Eastern Mau Forest block.
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Residents of Molo and Njoro constituencies have expressed concern that the second phase of the Mau Forest evictions would affect most of them as large chunks of the land they occupy were degazetted from the forest to set up settlement schemes in the late 1990s.
Speaking at a meeting attended by residents living along the forest cutline yesterday, Nakuru County Ecosystem Conservator George Njenga said only those living beyond the 1996 cutline would be affected.
“We have over 3,000 families living in various settlement schemes hived off from the Mau Forest. Out of these, around 300 families are living and farming past the cutline and will be targeted in the coming evictions,” said Mr Njenga.
In Molo constituency, the evictions will affect those who encroached on Kiptunga, Kapsita, Baraget, Vikingi Tatu and Kenya Mpya forests while in Njoro the areas targeted include Neissuit, Tachasis, Likia and Saino Teret forests.
Although the conservator did not give actual dates for the evictions, he urged those who have encroached on the forest to leave in peace.
“The cutline between the forest and the settlement schemes is clear. Those who are beyond the boundary should not wait to be given another notice to leave. They should respectfully vacate. It is not the Government’s wish to use force in the exercise,” he said.
He noted that the areas had been marked for the evictions in the second phase and that the officials were awaiting for directions from the concerned ministries.
Molo Deputy County Commissioner David Wanyonyi said no one would be spared regardless of their influence, adding that force would be used only where necessary.
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The Ogiek, who majorly live in Neissuit and Marioshoni, however, warned the Government against evicting them, citing a case they won at the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights in Arusha. The court declared the Ogiek indigenous forest dwellers.
Nominated Senator Victor Prengei said the community supported the ongoing crackdown on illegal settlers in the forest, but warned that there was growing concern that the Ogiek might be evicted in the second phase.
The Government is targeting 40,000 people in the second phase of the Mau evictions.
Mr Prengei said the stakeholders spearheading the evictions should consider the interests of the Ogiek as ruled by the court on May 2017 as forest-dwelling communities and among the most marginalised indigenous people in Kenya.
“You do not expect most of them to have title deeds because they originally lived in the forest and the Government should consider this even as the second phase of the evictions loom. Already there is a lot of tension in these areas,” said Prengei.
Former area member of Parliament Jacob Macharia criticised leaders he said had issued a misleading statement that was interpreted to mean that all the 3,000 residents would be evicted.
“This caused unnecessary panic and only gazetted government officials should communicate anything on this emotive issue,” said Mr Macharia.
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Ministry of Lands Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri and National Land Commissioner Clement ole Nashuru said the titles being issued excluded land touching Mau forest.