, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 26 – Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta insists that genuine settlers of the now controversial Mau forest must be compensated before they are moved out of the controversial land.
In a statement, Mr Kenyatta who is also Finance Minister says that “poor peasant farmers” in the Mau must be given alternative land for their resettlement before any action is taken to try and evict them.
“After all these settlers and farmers in the Mau bought genuine parcels of land complete with genuine title deeds and we cannot therefore as government turn around and disown the title deeds,” he said.
Mr Kenyatta who is currently in London said unless the issue is handled carefully, it risks re-opening old wounds which may degeranete into violence similar to the one witnessed in the country during the post election violence.
He is of the view that: “Peaceful co-existence, harmony, tranquility and stability of the peoples of the region is paramount and non negotiable, as the flipside would visit untold suffering and misery upon the communities residing in the area.”
“Not to mention the great environmental damage that would be witnessed should the affected areas erupt into an orgy of violence as witnessed in the post election violence.”
The primary role of government, he said, is to provide for its citizenry a decent form of livelihood and to ease the suffering of its people.
“To that end, Government has the singular responsibility of ensuring the people have access to food, clothing and shelter. It is therefore incumbent on government to ensure that the smallholders who bought land and settled in the mau are properly and adequately provided for in terms of alternative settlement and /or properly compensated in order that they continue to cater for themselves and their families,” he added.
He is therefore, calling for what he termed a “wholistic approach” which is required for the country to preserve “our social fabric rather than finding ourselves in a situation that ends up creating more IDPs and discontent among our people.”
He is opposed to recent sentiments by a section of leaders both in the government and the opposition who are calling for the mass eviction of mau settlers.
“To imagine, as some leaders are saying ,that we can just wish away the stark reality of the potential for fresh hostilities among the peoples residing in the region is not only deceiving ourselves but also an abdication and dereliction of duty,” he said.
“These settlers and farmers in the mau bought genuine parcels of land complete with genuine government of Kenya title deeds and we cannot therefore as government turn around and disown the title deeds.”
Mr Kenyatta maintains that to disown the sanctity of the title will present the government with new challenges with grave consequences and far reaching ramifications.
“The only time we can revoke these titles is, if it can be proven that they are either fake or fraudulently obtained.
And even then, we cannot victimise the genuine small scale owners who in some cases sold off their original small scale holdings in order to buy land in the mau,” he said.
Therefore, he said: “The government must first compensate these poor peasant farmers and also find alternative land for their resettlement before any action is taken to try and evict them from the Mau.”
He said he is in the process of sourcing for the necessary resources and land for the smooth operationalisation of this program alongside the resettlement of the existing IDPs.
“I’am determined that this issue is resolved once and for all so that we can move our country forward in peace, stability and harmonious co- existence of the peoples of the rift valley and the entire country,” he said.
He urged fellow leaders to follow his example and desist from politicising the issue saying it will ignite into something that could not be easily reversed.
“We cannot play poker with the livelihoods of thousands of our people in the guise of conforming to the dictates of foreign interventionists who are themselves heavily to blame for the ecological disaster the world is witnessing through their global pollution and emissions while refusing to sign up to agreed global efforts to contain and manage climate change like the Kyoto protocol,” he said in the statement.
Separately Pme Minister Raila Odinga has denied reports that he is supporting forceful eviction of people from the forest.
According to the statement the Premier stands by the deal he sealed with a cross section of Rift Valley MPs and the only edict he said is final is the agreement that people should get out of Mau.
“The PM remains committed to that deal and is embarking on efforts to mobilise resources locally and internationally to conserve the forest in the manner and fashion of the agreement he sealed with the MPs.
“The Prime Minister believes there are people who bought the land in Mau believing it was a clean deal. He wants fair treatment for those people as they leave the forest. Any suggestion that he will evict people forcefully or leave them without alternative settlements is erroneous and misleading,” the statement reads in part.