Rift Valley leaders seek audience with President Uhuru over Mau

Mau Forest evictees inside their makeshift tent at Chepokundi area in Kuresoi south on October 23, 2019. [Kipsang Joseph/Standard]
Political leaders from Rift Valley have said they were seeking a consultative meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta over evictions in Mau Forest.

Notice was given on August to 10,000 families living in the forest to leave voluntarily within 60 days. The deadline has expired and forceful evictions are expected to commence.

Yesterday, three governors and several legislators from the region held a four-hour meeting at a Nairobi hotel where they deliberated on the way forward following the elapse of the deadline.

In a statement after the meeting, the leaders jointly called on the Head of State to give them audience and devise a formula that will help in the restoration of the Mau water tower without disadvantaging the victims.

“The President promised us in the past that a consultative process will be facilitated to provide a resolution in the interest of genuine, legitimate land owners,” said the leaders in a statement read on their behalf by Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony.

The leaders said efforts to reach Uhuru have been unsuccessful prompting them to address him through the media.

They claimed settlers have been brutalised even before the deadline elapsed, a matter that they claimed can only be addressed by the Uhuru.

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“Residents have been reduced to homeless, helpless squatters and refugees in their legitimate homes. They are shaken, intimidated, hungry and stressed,” said the leaders.

Chepkwony said they will continue to document cases of human rights violations with a view of pursuing accountability through local and international legal means.

Emurua Dikirr MP Johanna Ng’eno asked the Government to shelve plans to displace victims who have pitched temporary camps outside the forest.

Rift Valley Regional Commissioner George Natembeya had warned families leaving the forest against setting up camps outside the forest or in the surrounding counties.

Natembeya argued the camp at Chepakundi set up by some 1,000 families was politically-engineered to portray the Government negatively.

But yesterday, the local leaders said there was nothing political with the temporary camps since locals were also protecting themselves from weather elements as solution was being sought.

“It is unfair to chase the victims from their temporary shelter yet government claims to be interested only in the forest land,” said Ng’eno.

The leaders have asked humanitarian organisations to assist the victims in setting up temporary camps as they wait presidential directive.

Baringo Governor Stanley Kiptis and his Uasin Gishu counterpart Jackson Mandago was also present.

Other leaders present were Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen and his Kericho counterpart Aaron Cheruiyot and Christopher Langat (Bomet).

Others were MPs Oscar Sudi (Kapseret), Beatrice Kones (Bomet East), Nelson Koech (Belgut) and Nandi Woman Representative Tecla Tum among several other leaders.

Meanwhile, an exercise to plan 10 million trees to restore the Maasai is set to start today.

Natembeya yesterday said the process will begin with the planting of 100,000 seedling at Siera Leone, Narok South.

Natembeya said a multi-agency team has been deployed to the area ahead of the plan which will be spearhead by Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko.

Tobiko will also commission an aerial seeding of over 3,500 hectares by Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI).

Natembeya said close to 96 per cent of people who had encroached the water tower have since vacated.

[Additional reporting by Gilbert Kimutai]

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Rift Valley leadersMau ForestMau Evictions