Learners caught up as looming Mau forest evictions intensify

Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot (left) addresses a press conference in Nairobi. Looking on is Belgut MP Nelson Koech. [David Njaaga, Standard]

Rift Valley leaders have asked parents to send their children to 15 schools shut in Mau, setting stage for confrontation with the Government as schools reopen today for third term.

Last week, Rift Valley Regional Commissioner George Natembeya declared the schools were illegal as they were on forest land, and asked families affected by second phase eviction to look for alternative schools for their children.

Over 4,600 learners could be affected by the move.

Speaking in Nairobi yesterday, Rift Valley MPs told parents in the affected regions to ignore the Government’s directive and send their children to their respective schools.

SEE ALSO :Ruto’s plea over Mau deadline

Led by Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot and Belgut MP Nelson Koech, the leaders said the schools were registered and on the Maasai Mau Trust Land and not the forest as claimed by the State.

“The eviction is illegal. We will not allow the evictions to go on because it is discriminatory and inhumane to the people,” Mr Cheruiyot said.

At another press conference later, former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto asked the Government to give leaders of the North Rift region time to discuss the issue of Mau Forest and the looming evictions.

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Mr Ruto said they were worried that tension over the planned evictions could lead to chaos.

“As leaders, we have met and agreed that we will engage in dialogue. And we will not be engaging in name calling, shouting matches and other activities that are likely to raise tension among the people,” he said.

SEE ALSO :Nairobi Assembly swears in ODM, Jubilee MCAs to public service board

He said pupils in the area should be allowed to attend school without any problems. 

This came after Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko declared the Government would not back down on its decision to evict illegal settlers from Mau.

The CS also revealed what he termed massive land fraud in the water tower.

He said of 7,800 people who occupy Government land in Maasai Mau forest, only 722 possess title deeds, which the State has declared illegal.

Cheruiyot said pupils should not suffer from ‘political experiments’ in Mau forest, adding that the matter should be handled with sobriety.

SEE ALSO :Kicked out of Mau forest into a camp

He dismissed argument by Natembeya and Tobiko that the schools were not registered because they were sitting on forest land.

“There are hundreds of unregistered schools in the country. Do they cease to exist because of that? How comes we have teachers hired by the Government working there?” Cheruiyot posed.

The senator criticised Natembeya for issuing the directive on the closure yet the matter was active in court.

“If the title deeds are fake, why is the Government in court asking to be allowed to cancel them?” posed Cheruiyot.

Last month, lawyers moved to court seeking orders to have the planned evictions suspended until the case was heard and determined. Environment and Lands Court Judge Silas Munyao will hearing the case in Kitale on Wednesday.

SEE ALSO :Let adult women go for cut, doctor tells court

There is also another pending case filed by Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony at the East African Court of Justice and Environment.

The leaders also asked President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto to break their silence over the matter and resolve the issue once and for all.

Evicted families

Last Wednesday, Natembeya said the schools were illegally built on forest land and were to be demolished as State embarks on the second phase of eviction targeting about 60,000 people in Narok North and South.

The Government is seeking to reclaim about 17,000 acres of land in an exercise that has raised political temperatures in the country. The first phase conducted last year led to the eviction of more than 10,000 families.

A tour by The Standard discovered that some of the affected families have already started moving out of the water tower. 

The police have reportedly started evicting families.

At the same time, the National Assembly Environment and Natural Resources committee said it will invite Tobiko to Parliament over the eviction.

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MauRift ValleyEnvironment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko