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Raila to launch Mau secretariat

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 2 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga is on Friday expected to launch a Coordinating Secretariat of the Mau Forest Complex.

A statement from his office on Wednesday indicated that the meeting will convene stakeholders from ministries concerned with Water, Environment and Agriculture among others.

“The Secretariat will bring together key ministries that will oversee the restoration and conservation of the Mau,” the statement read.

In the statement the Prime Minister also dismissed media reports that he had apologised to Rift Valley MPs over Mau during an ODM National Executive Council meeting on Tuesday.

The PM said he only agreed that there were critical issues in the party and by accepting to pursue them, some people felt agitated.

“The PM made a statesman’s statement saying there have been a number of critical issues in the party and in the process of pursuing them some people felt he stepped on their toes. He said if there were any such cases, he was prepared to apologise. But since nobody raised any such issues, there was never an apology,” the statement read.

Mr Odinga said in the meeting the 27 ODM MPs resolved that action should be taken on Mau noting that it was a crucial step to conserving the country’s water towers.

“The PM considers saving the Mau and other water towers a serious national duty for which he believes only history will judge him against the rest,” he said.

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Last month Mr Odinga overruled a fourteen-day eviction notice given by the Kenya Forest Service on Mau settlers.

The Premier told the settlers to wait for the establishment of an inter-ministerial committee that will lead the restoration of the water tower.

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.

The launch of the Secretariat on Friday comes after President Mwai Kibaki ordered the Prime Minister to speed up the restoration and conservation of Kenya’s biggest water catchment area.

The Secretariat will draw the restoration and conservation programme which will include identification of genuine settlers, compensation, the eviction process and other technicalities that will see the water tower fully restored.

But the Secretariat will face a challenge of finding where the evictees will be resettled.

The shamba system resettlement had been floated but was criticised by environmentalist Prof Wangari Maathai saying it is what led to the destruction of other forests.

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She said settlers on shamba system always try to expand where they are allocated and as a result, they cut trees and clear bushes to give themselves more space.


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