, NAROK, Kenya, Aug 10 – The government will compensate all settlers in the Mau forest complex with less than ten acres of land regardless of the legitimacy of their title holdings, Prime Minister Raila Odinga said on Sunday.
He said that due to the circumstances under which some peasants acquired land on willing buyer and willing seller basis, considerations would be taken to ensure the interest of all parties in the Mau fiasco were taken into account.
Mr Odinga said that an audit of those within the forest cover was set to be undertaken to ascertain genuine recipients of the compensation programme, which may include a resettlement scheme to ensure that the exercise was conducted in a humane manner.
"The government wants to conserve the eco-system but we have to partner towards this venture with the communities so that we arrive at a consensus on which way forward to avert irreparable damage to our water catchment area,” Mr Odinga said.
The Premier told public rallies in Siongiroi in Bomet and Sogoo in Narok South districts respectively that influential personalities who allegedly grabbed large tracts of land in the area were not likely to be considered for compensation.
He assured residents in the affected areas that the government wanted to amicably resolve the issue so that communities within the complex were actively involved in conservation efforts when the demarcation of the forest land is finalised.
"Those settlers with between five and ten acres of land will be considered for compensation after the vetting of those within the Mau complex is concluded because we have realised that they unknowingly bought their parcel from the grabbers,” Mr Odinga said.
He however censured a section of politicians from the region for playing dirty tricks with government efforts to restore the complex, claiming that a majority of those criticising the exercise were beneficiaries of illegal allocations of forest land.
Mr Odinga added that the issue of conserving the forest, the biggest water tower in the country should be de-linked from politics.
He said that the government would formulate a conservation authority to oversee the restoration and protection of the five water towers in the country, to ensure the eco-system was preserved for the posterity of future generations.
The Premier told residents that a task force may soon be dispatched to surveyors to demarcate forest land from the former group ranches, amid complaints from residents that their ancestral land was erroneously put under the Mau conservancy zone.
"The Cabinet has already approved the task force report which will be submitted to parliament for adoption, before we formulate a task force to vet the settlers and establish the boundaries and ascertain the actual number of those within the complex,” Mr Odinga said.
Among those present during the Premier’s tour of the South Rift were Cabinet Ministers James Orengo, Paul Otuoma and MPs Nkoidila Lankas and nominated MP Musa Sirma among other communal leaders.