, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 23 – Agriculture Minister William Ruto said on Thursday that serious vetting needed to be done to ensure only those who qualify for compensation are considered for resettlement from the Mau Forest.
He said whilst he agreed with evicting illegal settlers, stringent measures need to be applied to ensure the exercise is carried out in a fair and transparent way.
“Individual settlers who bought from government or from persons who lived in the Mau before should be resettled as a matter of priority, but we must first establish who deserves to be included in the process,” he said.
Mr Ruto said the law had to be adhered to once the exercise commenced to ensure the settlers were not harassed.
“It is the rule of natural justice that it is wrong to displace, destroy or burn people’s houses even if they are squatters.”
He added: “Since the task force convened by government has recommended that these people be resettled or be compensated so that they can find alternative residence I think we should go by that.”
At the same time the Agriculture Minister revealed plans by his ministry to formulate a new policy that will encourage reforestation.
“In a months time I will be gazzeting new regulations to secure water catchment areas in agricultural areas to make it mandatory for farmers plant trees on their farms.”
The new policy will also outlaw any agricultural activity thirty meters from a river.
Meanwhile, Rift Valley Members of Parliament want communities in Mau Forest moved peacefully over a period of two years.
This followed dissuasions by the legislators and Prime Minister Raila Odinga where the need for the formation of a standing committee of three experts and representatives from both the government and communities was agreed upon.
Belgut MP Charles Keter said that such dialogue and peaceful movement of people would contribute towards peace in the region.
“We are for conservation of Mau and we want that to be on record. But the statements which are coming are alarming that within the next two weeks, people will be evicted,” he said.
“We want dialogue, we want peaceful movement of people. We do not want eviction. The issue of Mau is not like the issue of Mungiki,” he added.
At the same time, Kipkelion Member of Parliament Magerer Langat cautioned against inciteful statements that might aggravate the situation.
“It was agreed that there was not going to be any more intimidating statements from the government and other leaders that can create fear and despondency among our people who live in the Mau,” he stated.