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Kenya acts to save forests

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 25 – The Government has intensified the fight against forest destruction in a move to avert looming desertification in some parts of the country, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka has said.

Mr Musyoka warned that the Government would not compromise on individuals who have interfered with water catchment areas in any part of the country.

The Vice President however said the Government would explore ways of solving the problem of hundreds of families occupying open glades in Embobut forest of Marakwet district.

Mr Musyoka, who had also toured the area when he was Minister for Environment in 2005, said there were genuine squatters who had been given permits to occupy the glades by the colonial government and that they did not have an alternative land to settle.

He said the Government would address the plight of such families but warned that the Government would deal ruthlessly with those who have invaded into the interior parts of the forest which was a major source of water to thousands of residents living along the Kerio Valley.

In a message delivered to residents of Tirap division on his behalf by Assistant Minister for Co-operative Development Linah Jebii Kilimo at Embolot open grounds in Marakwet district on Sunday, Mr Musyoka said he sympathised with those families living in the glades and whose houses and property have been destroyed in the ongoing security operation to evict squatters living in the forest.

Mrs Kilimo also gave out 300 blankets donated by Mr Musyoka to the families who were affected by the evictions.

Mrs Kilimo, under whose constituency Embobut forest falls, warned that the Government would forcefully evict those who have invaded deep into the forest.

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“I want to make it clear that we are not against the operation to evict the squatters. What we are fighting for is the future survival of hundreds of families who were allocated open glades by the colonial government,” said Mrs Kilimo.

She appealed to President Mwai Kibaki to come to the rescue of the families, saying the only hope for them remained with him.

“I appeal to President Kibaki to come to the rescue of these families for the sake of their future,” said Mrs Kilimo.

The Minister also appealed to NGOs and other well-wishers to assist the families who were currently spending nights in the cold with food, clothing among other donations.

She said it was wrong for some leaders to politicise the operation for their selfish gains, saying it was time leaders irrespective of their political affiliations worked as a team for the sake of the people.

Residents who addressed the meeting condemned the ongoing operation on those families who were living in open glades and asked the Government to instead evict those who had invaded deep into the forest. The government had earlier issued a directive that Illegal squatters in all gazetted forests in Kenya would be evicted.

According to the minister for Forestry and Wildlife, Dr Noah Wekesa, the country’s forest cover has greatly been depleted as a result of human activities.

The minister had said that all human activities inside the gazetted forests would be stopped, as the government, through the Kenya Forest Services, embarks on tree planting.

He cited this as the only way to save the remaining forest cover from being destroyed further.

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The most affected forests are Mau, Kabolet, Cherangani, Embobut in Marakwet District and Mt Elgon.

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