, NAIROBI, Kenya – The pre and post colonial history of Kenya has been characterised by conflict over land. It is this key economic resource more than any other factor – and in the last half century right from the fight for Independence – that has been our national bone of contention.
The land question has at all times led Kenyans into conflict, death, destruction of property and to our economic, social and political stagnation.
This is, to a very large extent, inter-dependent and inter-related to both the inequity and the feeling that land ownership is the preserve of a few not the majority, various questions of ancestral lands, idle land utility including urbanisation, human/animal conflict, forest encroachment and squatters land rights etc all continue to add fuel to the fire.
The Mau forest complex is a weighty environmental matter and has the capacity to stare down all of us in having to seriously address the land question, land policy, inequity and land use once and for all. However it is the inherent political and moral danger of appearing to be a isolationist and targeted anti Kalenjin manoeuvre for political gain or loss that is worrying.
The coast, slums, Massai lands, other non-Kalenjin occupants of the Mau mean this a national not regional issue.
The government and the Prime Minister cannot appear to be in possible conflict with a region or community and the Cabinet must urgently confine tomorrow and approach Mau with collective responsibility not disjointed public conflict on such an explosive issue.
Given that the Rift Valley is the historical hotbed of displacement and conflict more caution and care is required in the approach to Mau than is now the case. Utterances of political leaders now will carry with them the weight of the next 50 years of this painful history.
Whereas Kenyans are very grateful to Prime Minister Raila Odinga for his contribution to democracy in this country he must be very careful not to play the politics of Robert Mugabe in Kenya. Emerging from the freedom struggle in Zimbabwe, President Mugabe imagined that he owned the country and started playing politics of land appeasement to the pleasure of the majority of the poor, disrespecting title deeds and their sanctity under the law.
As a result of his failed land policy and approach, now Zimbabwe is a collapsed economy whose former glory has been reduced to a state of hyper inflation and untold poverty.
The country as a whole and the Kikuyu and Kalenjin communities in the Rift Valley in particular, are only now healing the wounds of the post election violence occasioned to a very large extent by both the ODM and the PNU leadership approach, response to and because of the disputed Presidential election results of 2007.
During those elections millions of Rift Valley residents stood firmly with the PM. But we all were shaken as a nation when Kenyans died and others displaced. The National Accord envisaged a new peace and tolerance; a new approach to handle each other. We cannot now allow the Prime Minister –right as the intention maybe – through the mismanagement of Mau to reopen up these healing wounds again.
The issue must be handled humanely, the people of the Mau settled and compensated in a way that will not bring new IDPs in Kenya.
The historical matters of land can erupt our beloved country and we have lost too many of our sons and daughters to this. The Constitutional obligation of the Prime Minister and the government is to preserve and protect the people, property, unity and just pursuit of happiness of all Kenyans.
I have every hope that as a nation we shall proceed with the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation commission and that it will have real teeth because the Mau Complex Question is right down their alley.
I appeal to the Cabinet not to return tensions and mistrust among Kenyans while hunger, energy shortages, crime, drought and poverty are things we must overcome together.
(Tony Gachoka is a media consultant and spokesman, SIMAMA KENYA)