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Government’s decision to settle squatters in Mau Forest misguided

By Hussein Cheptot | March 27th 2016

The world's forest capacity is reducing each day. This has been occasioned by unending encroachment by the increasing human population. This trend not only depletes the forest's ecosystem but also diminishes the natural resource capacity of the earth, a major attributor of the climate change. The pace at which the human race is plundering the forest resources leaves nothing to be desired considering that the human generational phase of life is active and growing by day. This brings me to the recent government's Cabinet decision to excise 17000 hectares of the Mau Forest, to settle the illegal occupants. In fact, the Ministry of land is in the process of generating title deeds to be given to the community members who are occupying the forest. This to me is not only a step in the wrong direction by the government but also does reverse the gains made in forest and environment conservation and management enhanced through the constitution of Kenya. The government should have explored different alternatives to resolve this issue. The Mau Complex has always been a contentious matter. Any progress made to resettle and conserve the forest has been met with political disapproval and discontent from leaders who want to a gain political ground. Nonetheless, the government should have sought different resettlement areas. A carefully drafted resettlement plan should be in place to ensure that resettlement program is carried out procedurally and within the constraints of the law. The plan should acceptable to both the occupants and the political class so as not to raise the political temperatures in the region. In light of this, the evictions should be carried out humanely in respect of human rights and dignity. The constitution of Kenya Article 10 on national values and principles of governance includes, among others, participation of the people, commitment to human dignity, human rights, non-discrimination and protection of the marginalized. Article 28 on human dignity, provides for the respect and protection of human dignity. Eviction that is carried out in a dehumanizing manner would be contrary to this provision. In addition, the Draft Evictions and Resettlement Procedures Bill further gives the guidelines and procedures of executing any eviction practice. The Cabinet needs to rethink and re-evaluate its decision on the excision of the forest and seeks further clarity on the alternative solutions. We should not sit and watch the Mau Complex shrinking in volume. It should be preserved and protected in time and for the coming generation. Email: [email protected]

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