The government has announced plans to resettle about 40,000 families evicted to reclaim 57,000 acres of Eastern Mau forest.
Speaking yesterday during celebrations to mark International Day of Peace, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said the agreement entered into by the government, Kipsigis, Tugen and Ogiek communities will see the families resettled in 11 weeks.
The government also ceded to some of the demands by members of the three communities who clash every year over land ownership in the area.
“These clashes have been going on for the past two decades and we have orders from the president to resolve this crisis within 11 weeks,” Dr Matiang’i said after a meeting at the Lake Naivasha Resort.
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Under the agreement, the Ogieks as per a court order will be allocated one block of the land while members of the other two communities will get individual title deeds.
The Cabinet secretary admitted that some government officers mainly from his office and that of Lands had contributed to the current impasse.
“To address all the emerging issues, we have formed a multi-agency-team and we shall take drastic actions on all government officers who have contributed to this problem,” he said.
While thanking the leaders of the three communities, Matiang’i said the Ministry of Lands will conduct a survey and sub-division of the land.
“This problem started in 1994 and the clashes have been a major concern to the government but we are committed to permanently solving this,” he said.
The meeting was attended by Cabinet secretaries Faridah Karoney (Lands), Charles Keter (Energy) and Tobiko Keriako (Environment).
Reverend Ibrahim Mutai of the Kipsigis community termed the move to resettle them timely, saying this would end perennial clashes that have left many dead.
“We thank the president for intervening and making sure that this problem is resolved as we have lived in fear for years,” he said.
Joseph Miringa from the Ogiek community said they would continue to push for community and individual titles deeds.
“We fully support the ongoing process and we hope that we shall get the community and individual title deeds before December,” he said.
This came as an international NGO, Equal Access, praised the country for supporting vulnerable populations such as Somali-Kenyans, North-Eastern communities, and the marginalised through conflict resolution measures.
Equal Access International Country Director Abdirashid Abdullahi also lauded action against individuals who use violence to resolve conflicts.
“The new revenue allocation formula by the government is a great step towards inclusivity. It shows these communities that they belong and does not antagonise them. Issuance of ID cards to young Kenyans at the Coast and in North Eastern is also positive, allowing them to have a vision in their lives and seek to be contributing members of society,” he said.
Mau forest complex, the largest water catchment area in Kenya consists of 22 blocks covering more than 400,000 hectares and extends through seven counties including Narok County.
The forest is the source of at least 12 rivers.
Over the years, evictions have been carried out by the government in an effort to reclaim the lost glory of the water catchment. The evictions happened between 2004 and 2009.
In 2019, during the second phase of evictions in the Maasai Mau forest more than 10,000 people were evicted and the government launched a 10 million tree planting initiative to restore the forest. During phase two of the evictions more than 22,000 hectares of land was recovered.
In February 2018, a 19-member task force was formed to look into the forest resources management and logging activities.
Maasai Mau, one of the 22 forest blocks forming the Mau Forests Complex, has been extensively impacted by illegal settlements, after ballooning of five adjacent group ranches during land sub-division.
Security forces torched or demolished homes and social amenities, including schools, churches and health clinics, rendering many people destitute during evictions.
[Additional reporting by Julius Chepkwony]