NAIROBI, August 3 – The State-funded human rights watchdog has expressed its opposition to calls for the forceful evictions in Mau Forest.
Speaking to Capital News the new Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) Chairperson Florence Jaoko said the Mau situation should be handled in line with set international principles which require alternative lands to be identified first.
She said: “You must be able to give people reasonable options for them to take up. Obviously some people may think that they can only stay in Mau but it will not benefit the lifetime of their children and grand children.”
Five leaders from the Maasai community, led by National Heritage Minister William Ole Ntimama, had called on the government to move in and secure the Mau ahead of the October eviction deadline saying that rivers in the Mau were drying up and affecting the pastoralists and wildlife in Kajiado, Narok and Tanzania.
Jaoko termed the issue of the Mau as a matter that not only affected Kenya but the region as a whole and which must be resolved to save the important water catchment area.
She was however categorical on the importance of vetting people living in the complex to determine the genuine squatters.
“Mau cannot stay the way it is; we must ask ourselves are these people genuinely landless? If there are (some people) who have large tracts of land elsewhere they don’t even deserve to be in the Mau in the first place,” stated the human rights commissioner.
She added Kenyans needed to deal with the hard issues beyond just looking at political expediency because this is the future of Kenya.
More than 8,000 Ogiek community members living in East Mau Forest asked the government to spare them from eviction because they were indigenous residents of the forests.
Ntimama, the Narok North MP, has been involved in a war of words with Rift Valley MPs who have demanded that farmers who acquired land in the water-catchment area be paid first before evictions in October as agreed during a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Raila Odinga early last month.