, NAIROBI, Kenya, June 3 – The Africa Policy Institute has called on the government to urgently set up an independent agency to manage Kenya’s water towers.
The Institute’s founder Professor Peter Kagwanja said on Thursday that such an agency would coordinate all affairs of the declining indigenous ecosystem as well as secure the Mau forest complex from politics and encroachment.
“Encroachment on these water catchment areas is not going to end now so you need an agency that is a one-stop shop that enables the country to deal with Mt Kenya, Aberdares, the Mau, Mt Elgon and Cherangany in a more systematic manner,” Professor Kagwanja said.
He said the agency would also transfer the Mau interim coordinating secretariat (that is currently working on the restoration of the water tower) from a political office to a non-political and independent body that would adhere to guidelines in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, African Union and United Nations Conventions on displacement of persons.
He said the issue of conserving the Mau – which is Kenya’s largest water tower – had been highly politicised and had over the years been used for political mileage.
“The Mau issue is also hovering over the 2012 presidential elections and therefore it is important that the international community acquaints itself with the politics of the Mau so that they fully intervene in a manner that is not political,” he said.
“The international community must maintain neutrality to avoid “aiding” inter-community conflicts and elite fragmentation ahead of the constitutional referendum and the 2012 general elections,” he added.
He noted that from the colonial times to the present, the Mau complex had shaped Kenyan politics with far-reaching implications on economic development, food security, democracy and political stability of the country and the neighbouring regions.
“Intermittent evictions of Mau squatters in 2005 converged with the twin electoral processes of the 2005 constitutional referendum and the December 2007 general elections. This made Mau a strategic political tool for the competing political elites to court the populous Kalenjin vote in order to win the referendum and general elections,” he said.
Professor Kagwanja said that the continued politicisation of the Mau restoration had made inferior the environmental agenda and threatened the key pillars of national economy.
“Consequently, the livelihoods of thousands of people who are directly or indirectly dependent on the Mau forests in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi and Egypt are at great risk,” he said.
The Interim Coordinating Secretariat on Mau restoration has already secured 23,000 hectares of the Mau forest out of the targeted 120,000 hectares of the forest land in the ongoing restoration exercise.
The secretariat is currently in the third phase of the restoration programme which entails securing 20,000 hectares of the Maasai Mau forest.