NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 26 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga has overruled a fourteen-day eviction notice given by the Kenya Forest Service on Mau settlers.
The Premier told the settlers to ignore the order and instead wait for the establishment of an inter-ministerial committee that will spearhead the restoration of the water tower.
“The committee will be gazetted very shortly and officially commissioned early next week. It is this committee that will spell out the programme and activities geared towards the restoration of the Mau in all its aspects,” a statement from the PM’s office said.
The contradicting orders came barely a month after Forestry and Wildlife Minister Noah Wekesa asserted that his Ministry was the one charged with spearheading the resettlement program of the water tower.
The evident contradiction angered a section of MPs from the Rift Valley who said this was creating more confusion and anxiety. The legislators dismissed the notice and demanded that the government puts its act together on the resettlement program.
“Unless there is an alternative land set aside somewhere nobody will move,” Belgut MP Charles Keter said.
“The government must follow the due process of the law in reclaiming the land,” said Chepalungu MP Isaac Ruto.
The Forest Department failed to state whether any land had been identified for the resettlement of the genuine settlers as promised by the government. The PM however assured that: “holders of small parcels of land who hold legal title deeds will be compensated” stressing that the exercise to evict people in the forest will be done peacefully, orderly and in a humane way.
“We wonder whether the alternative land will be identified in the nine days remaining in the notice,” Ainamoi MP Benjamin Lagat inquired.
The MPs told off KFS saying that it has no mandate over the settlements since they were legally hived off from the forest and the order has not been overturned.
“They can only issue a notice on the areas within their jurisdiction in the forest not the land that was exercised from the forest a long time ago,” Mr Ruto stated.
KFS has ordered the eviction of 22 settlements covering 400,000 hectares of land and the MPs said that over two million people now occupy the contentious land.
President Mwai Kibaki last week ordered the Premier to hasten the eviction of settlers in the country’s water towers. The invasion of the forests and the subsequent destruction is widely blamed for the current water, food and energy crisis Kenya finds itself in.