, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 27 – Forestry and Wildlife Minister Noah Wekesa on Monday told off politicians engaged in the Mau complex debate saying they were misinforming the public.
Dr Wekesa said that whereas forests must be seen within a cross-sectoral framework, his ministry holds the executive mandate over them and should be left to lead the process of reclaiming the now depleted ecosystem without intimidation.
He complained that the current debate is lopsided, out of context and largely politically motivated pitting ministers and politicians against each other despite their full knowledge that the matter was before Cabinet.
“As the Minister for Forestry and Wildlife, it therefore saddens me to see the frequency of which contradictory statements are made in the public media,” Dr Wekesa said in a statement sent to newsrooms from Kampala, Uganda.
The Minister said the Constitution gives him powers to declare any un-alienated Government Land or Land purchased or otherwise acquired by the Government to be a State forest.
“All of us know that Mau Forest Complex is a State forest that is now heavily degraded by settlers. Therefore, its restoration, protection and conservation is my direct mandate and I will act to deliver a well conserved Mau Forest Complex to Kenyans,” he reiterated.
Thousands of settlers have invaded the forest and are now claiming that the government issued them with title deeds. Legislators from the North Rift have in solidarity warned that they will not allow any evictions unless their constituents are fully compensated. The government on the other hand insists that they will only compensate genuine settlers who Environment Minister John Michuki has said are only 1,962.
The depletion of Kenya’s largest water tower is blamed by many for the dwindling water levels in the country which has seen many rivers dry up. The nation is facing a water shortage and a rationing programme is currently in operation in Nairobi estates.
Pastures have also dried up causing death to hundreds of cattle and threatening the livelihoods of many pastoralist communities. Over 10 million people are facing hunger due to a drought in most parts of the country.
President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga have maintained that the settlers must vacate the water tower. A work plan on a report of a taskforce appointed by to Mr Odinga is set to be discussed by Cabinet which insiders say will see the settlers evicted in three months of approval.
Numerous interventions have been proposed by experts and non-experts with a view to stemming destruction, reclaiming encroached land, compensating current occupants, resettlement of genuine squatters, rehabilitating and conserving the Mau Forests Complex. Dr Wekesa however said that whereas saving Mau will require concerted efforts his Ministry will co-ordinate all such efforts as mandated by law and informed by the on-going forestry sector reforms.
The Ministry said the Kenya Forest Service and Kenya Wildlife Service are working frantically and closely with other public agencies, private sectors and eminent individuals to finalise the operational plan of action the restoration, protection and conservation of the Mau Forest Complex.
“When all requirements will be ready and in place my Ministry will ensure the restoration, protection and conservation of the Mau Forest Complex,” he said.