State evicts Maasai Mau forest encroachers as it resettles others

Ololung'a MCA Jefferson Lang'at addresses Maasai May evictees at Saptet IDP camp in Narok South on March 7, 2021. [Robert Kiplagat, Standard]

The process to remove illegal settlers who had encroached on part of the Maasai Mau forest land entered its second week yesterday, even as the government began compensating and resettling another group of 35,000 evictees from parts of Eastern Mau forest.

On the northern side of the vast water tower falling under Narok County, hundreds of people residing in Medung'i area in Narok North Constituency were rendered homeless following the second week of evictions.

The evictions kicked off after an order by President William Ruto directed security agencies and the Department of Forestry to ensure the forest was free of human habitation.

The move has been criticised by the local Maasai community affected by the evictions and the leaders.

They accused some enforcement officers of overstretching the forest boundary, evicting people who have been living at the fringes of the forest for nearly five decades.

Douglas Ole Yengo said their homes have been flattened, claiming they were wrongly targeted in this fresh round of evictions.

"We have been living here for ages. My father was born here, I was born here, where we should go. We know where the boundary is, and the new beacon ballooned into our ancestral land, which is not part of the forest," said Yengo.

Despite ordering for immediate removal of the illegal settlers at the Maasai Mau forest, the Head of State indicated that those affected would be given alternative land.

However, those affected insist that they are on their rightful pieces. Rift Valley Regional Commissioner Abdi Hassan had indicated that nearly 23,000 acres of the Maasai Mau forest had been invaded by encroachers.

Settlement areas

Three days ago, the Kenya Water Towers Agency Chairman Rashid Echesa said he inspected progress made on the ongoing recovery of some sections in the State agency's forest land.

"The team has managed to remove those who had encroached in the forest in Eneng'etia, Ololopriki, Naitupaki, Olkurto, and Medung'i. The areas to be handled in the next 14 days will be Sasumwani, Kilaba, and Nkareta. This is part of the full recovery of forest land illegally converted to settlement areas," stated the State agency in its bulletin.

In 2018, the State evicted people from areas of Kosia and Kass FM. In 2019, eviction was carried out in areas of Sierra Leone, Chebitet, and adjacent sections.

Last week, Environment Cabinet Secretary Soipan Tuya asked the security team to conduct the operation humanely, noting that no lives should be lost during the operation.

Echesa joined the Principal Secretay for Forestry Gitonga Mugambi and held a public baraza at the Midungii area in Maasai Mau forest.

They were accompanied by the Chief Conservator of Forests Alex Lemarkoko. They were joined by the area MP Agnes Pareyio.

In the eastern part of the water tower, the government began the process of resettling some 35,000 families evicted from the forest.

This was against a court decision that stated the families were not entitled to any compensation or resettlement by the State.

Last Friday, when attending the Mashujaa Day celebrations in his constituency, Emurua-Dikirr MP Johana Ngeno claimed President Ruto had sent cash to the camps in Narok West to be distributed as compensation to the affected families.

"We pleaded with the president that those affected did not steal land from Mau forest, but they bought land using their resources, and the past regime inhumanely evicted them, but yesterday (Thursday), the president handed over cash to be distributed to them to buy land wherever they want to settle in the country," said Ngeno.

While ruling on the Mau forest eviction case, Environment and Lands Court judges said those who had moved to court were not entitled to compensation.

One of the beneficiaries we spoke to, Daniel Koskei, who had 10 acres of land in Okilgei said the Sh350,000 being compensation per individual was little and has created controversy.

"The move by the government has attracted land speculators as far as from Nakuru County and have been corruptly registered as internally displaced persons. We ask for thorough investigations into the matter," said Koskei on phone.

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