, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 19- The government maintains that it will not compensate any of the Mau Forest evictees who are currently being relocated in phase one of the water tower rehabilitation programme.
Forestry and Wildlife Minister Noah Wekesa ruled out compensation on Thursday saying the current lot of evictees do not have any legal documents to warrant their stay in the forest.
“It is very brave to give the government an ultimatum but our resolve is to ensure that the relocation of the people is done smoothly without any use of force and we have also been reminded from time to time that this exercise must be done conforming to the law of the country,” he said further warning the evictees against issuing any conditions pending their move.
He also urged politicians from the region to stop inciting the evictees from moving out of the forest stating that they were interfering with the relocation plans.
“As soon as people heard and read our instruction to leave Mau a lot of them started moving out voluntarily until the politicians went there and started telling them not to move out. That was when we started seeing them putting up structures in form of tents along the road but the people had already started moving to their villages,” he said.
Dr Wekesa also stated that the leaders from the Mau region did not have any reason to oppose the eviction plans of the Mau noting that the government had previously evicted other forest dwellers and those evictions did not cause as much uproar as the Mau one.
“We evicted people from Mt Elgon, we have done it in Cherangany, Marmanet and other places. How come politicians from these areas did not tell their people not to move out? Does it mean that they do not care for their people? I don’t see why the Mau evictions are creating such noise and the Mau is not any different from other forest complexes,” he explained.
Dr Wekesa added that a lot of the evictees were victims of circumstance and that politicians were only using them for their own selfish gains.
“A lot of these people are very good people but they were cheated that there was land here (Mau) to come and settle in. I am appealing to us politicians who are always looking for votes to start looking at the bigger picture,” he said.
The Minister said that the government would also deploy Kenya Wildlife Services rangers to provide security in the area as well as assist in the relocation plans.
“The rangers will be sent out on Monday and will be there to help ensure that the areas that are vacated remain vacant. Our surveyors are also on the ground to demarcate the forest boundaries in an exercise that might continue for the next one month,” he observed.
Dr Wekesa added that the government would also use youth under the Kazi Kwa Vijana initiative to help in the Mau re-forestation plans promising that their work would not go unpaid.
“We have funds for vijanas working under the Kazi Kwa Vijana initiative to plant tress in the Mau and we are not going to ‘import’ vijanas from other areas. We will use youth who live around the area. They will be paid for planting indigenous trees in the forest. There is some money (Sh20 million) and as little as it may be it will help us start our Mau rehabilitation programme,” he stated.
He however made an appeal to government, corporate bodies and other sponsors to finance part of the Mau rehabilitation plans.
“A formal request for more funds has been put before Treasury and we are waiting for their response. The money we have is an initial requirement as we seek more funds from the exchequer and development partners with whom government has initiated dialogue,” he stated.
Meanwhile National Heritage minister William Ole Ntimama said the government should use force to evict Mau settlers in the event that they refused to vacate the forest.
“Degradation of the Mau is currently affecting 16 million people who have lost cattle and other property. People in Northern Tanzania are also affected. Therefore this business of putting in conditions before people leave the water tower is not good for anyone,” he observed.
Mr Ntimama further alleged that Rift Valley leaders were wrongly advising the settlers to stay put if they were not compensated prior to them moving saying that their morals were questionable.