Ruto should stick to his word on forest land


Lake Victoria Basin Commission Executive Secretary Dr Masinde Bwire during a tree planting exercise in Victoria and Manyatta Primary schools in Kisumu. [Michael Mute, Standard]

President William Ruto has ordered individuals who have encroached on government land and especially forests, to move out immediately. This directive is informed by the urgent need to protect our forests with the aim of reversing climate change.

Time has come for emphasis to be put on action, away from the political rhetoric we have become accustomed to.

Dr Ruto has, no doubt, become the Africa champion for action on climate change. The Africa Summit on Climate Change held in Nairobi last month attests to his determination to climate action even though his earlier directive allowing logging, which was later stopped by the court, is a blot on his commitment to protect our forests.

Directives to vacate forest land are not new. Successive governments have issued similar edicts, with little to show for it as the forest cover continues to recede. For long, and to our detriment, the matter of protecting forests has been politicised.

The end result has been drying rivers following the destruction of water catchment areas in forests through human activity. Currently, Kenya’s tree cover stands at only 12.13 per cent, according to the National Forest Assessment report 2021.

Dr Ruto’s pledge to fence off Mau Forest and another 10 water towers to protect them from encroachment is welcome. Further, his directive to the environment ministry to use the El Nino rains to actaulise plans to plant 15 billion trees by 2032 should be followed through. 

But even as the government swings into action, those who will be evicted from forests should be treated in a humane manner. There are those who have lived there for decades and know no other home. The government should allocate them alternative land to settle.

Above all, however, Dr Ruto should put his foot down and ensure his directive is followed to the letter. Political exigency should not be allowed to win this time round.