Baringo Senator Gideon Moi has assured residents of Eastern Mau that the Government is committed to ending the perennial evictions witnessed locally.
Senator Gideon pledged to support the residents to find a lasting solution to recurrent evictions, which has left many suffering.
“We thank the President (Uhuru Kenyatta), who has engaged us and our people through the provincial administration and the Environment ministry. The matter is being sorted to have a lasting solution to problems of eviction,” said Gideon.
The Kanu partly leader added that the residents would be treated humanely even as the government seeks to restore the forest cover.
“Those affected will be engaged and handled humanely. I'm thankful for leaders in the area for trusting me on this weighty matter. I will not tire listening to your issues and deliberating them with the President, who we all support,” he said.
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In June, Kenya Forest Service started evictions from the 57,000-hectare Eastern Mau, half of which, according to ecosystem conservator Frank Misonge, has been encroached.
Close to 700 families were rendered homeless, forcing Nakuru County Assembly Deputy Speaker Samuel Tonui to file a petition in court seeking to stop the evictions. The Environment and Lands court in Nakuru heard the petition and issued conservatory orders barring the evictions.
Through their ward representatives and elders drawn from four wards in Nakuru County, which were recently affected by ethnic clashes, the leaders met with Baringo Senator at his Kabarak home.
Led by the deputy Speaker, the residents, on their second visit, thanked Gideon for his swift intervention to have the government address their woes with finality.
“We are grateful to Senator Moi that days after requesting for his intervention, government machinery have been sent to the ground to find a lasting solution to our problems,” said Tonui.
Tonui used the opportunity to declare his support for the Kanu party National Chairman for coming to the aid of his people.
He took a swipe at Deputy President William Ruto, who he said had for eight years been telling them to wait until he is president to help them.
"We had the Deputy President, for eight years, tell us to wait until he is president in 2022 to help us sort the matter. We are being taken for a ride. How can our people suffer in the cold as we wait for him to ascend to power? He is already powerful enough and just playing with our minds,” he said.
"Gideon, we are with you now and will forever be indebted for coming through for us while we had no one to run to."
Earlier this month, five people were killed and eighty others injured in inter-ethnic conflict pitting communities in Neissuit and Mariashoni wards. Similar challenges have been common in Mauche and Kiptagich wards.
The residents occupying the edges of Eastern Mau Forest, through their leaders, expressed confidence in a multi-agency team set up to look into land issues locally.
“We have confidence that the multi-agency team will give us a solution to our perennial problems. Land ownership remains our main challenge and often sees the communities engage in wars,” Tonui said.
Lands PS Nicholas Muraguri and Environment and Forestry's Chris Kiptoo visited the area on Friday, during which the special team from both ministries was unveiled.
Tonui said they expected the team to use boundaries set after the degazettement of various parts of the forest into settlement schemes in the 1990s.
“It has been agreed that the government will use the beacons set up while settling us at the edges of the forest. It will be a sigh of relief for those who have not encroached the forest but were recently evicted,” he said.
While calling on the President to make a personal visit to the area, Tonui said resolving the land issues would bring lasting peace to them.
“We finally have a sign of living in peace. Lack of title deeds has been the basis for tribal clashes, leading to mass displacement. Once we have the legal documents, the perennial fights will be a thing of the past,” said Tonui.
Kiptagich ward representative Rose Chepkoech added that they had not been able to make meaningful investments on their land due to an existing caveat, which the President has promised to lift.
“Some of us were issued with title deeds but they have been meaningless due to the caveat. Once the official cut-line is given, our title deeds will be valid. We hope the President will lift the caveat to pave way for development,” said Chepkoech.
Former East African Community Minister Mr Musa Sirma said the communities were only interested in the land they were allocated by the government contrary to what has been portrayed as their attempts to encroach the forest.
“The community living at the sidelines of the forest is not interested in any extra inch of the forest ... We don’t want any further bloodshed,” said Sirma.