Rift Valley leaders seek talks over Mau

Former East Africa Minister Musa Sirma, ex-Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto, Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos and Kenya Music Festivals chairman Peter Wanjohi at Kabarak University on August 11, 2019. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Leaders from Rift Valley have formed an alliance to champion for the rights of nearly 60,000 people facing eviction from the Mau Forest complex.

Fifteen leaders met in Nakuru for talks that centred on how to engage the Government and ensure the exercise is carried out in a humane way and the victims compensated.

They were led by Baringo Senator and Kanu chairman Gideon Moi, Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) party leader Isaac Ruto and Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos. Also in attendance were MPs Wilson Sossion, William Kamket, Silas Tiren and Gladwell Tungo.

Others were Kanu Secretary General Nick Salat, his CCM counterpart Zedekiah Buzeki, and former MPs Paul Sang, Franklin Bett, Magerer Langat, Musa Sirma and Zakayo Cheruiyot.

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The leaders say they fear the second wave of forest evictions, if not well handled, could displace tens of thousand of residents leading to a humanitarian crisis that could snowball into ethnic violence.

Broader consultation

Gideon, who hosted the leaders at Kabarak, called for broader consultation among all stakeholders before the Government carries out the operation.

“The information from South Rift leaders that over 60,000 people will be rendered homeless is extremely sad. Let us sit down and reason. Let us bring on board the top leadership of the country and find a solution,” he said.

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The senator noted that nearly 8,000 school-going children would be affected by the eviction, adding that out of the number, 1,000 learners were expected to sit for their national examinations at the end of the year.

Mr Ruto, who has regularly called for an amicable solution to the Mau Forest issues, warned that the ripple effect of the eviction would be horrible.

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“Previously we were talking about land belonging to five group ranches and there were no issues. But now there are no ranches because the owners sold land to willing buyers. It is unfortunate that issues of illegal ownership are coming up,” said Ruto.

Mr Tolgos told residents not to leave until an amicable solution is found. "I want to advise those who bought land in the Mau Forest and have title deeds to stay put. They should not be misled as it happened to families who were evicted from Embobut Forest and are now suffering in camps."

Mr Sossion said those targeted for evictions were not guilty because they had bought the land. He instead urged the Government to buy back the land.

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