NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 20 – The government has started profiling inhabitants of the Mau forest to locate their original homes in the ongoing resettlement, amidst accusations that it was abusing human rights in its effort to rehabilitate the water tower.
The chairman of the Mau Complex Secretariat Hassan Noor Hassan said the evictees would be required to give details of their place of birth to trace their ancestral homes which is where they are expected to relocate to.
“The profiling process is going to be done by Friday and as soon as it is complete we will be able to identify where every person comes from and be able to support him to reach his destination,” he stated adding that the procedure would be coordinated by current Rift Valley Provincial Commissioner.
Asked why the profiling process was not done prior to the eviction, the former Rift Valley Provincial Commissioner said: “We are not late at all. It was supposed to be done at the exit point as people were leaving the forest. How would we have done it with people scattered all over the place?”
He also added that Kenyans should stop accusing the government of being inhumane in its relocation efforts and instead focus on the greater good that the country would get once the plans were fully effected and the restoration plans implemented.
“If anybody is saying that we have not been humanitarian in our eviction plans then they are entitled to their own opinion. We have not moved people using askaris (police) and people moved out voluntarily. They heeded the government’s call when the relocation notice was given by Kenya Forest Service and we did not drag anyone out,” he explained.
Mr Hassan observed that the Mau complex greatly impacted Kenya’s economy further emphasising the immediate need to restore and preserve it. He also added that there were a total of 34,000 families who were currently living on about 120,000 hectares of the forest’s land.
“The other thing we need to ask ourselves is why are we so concerned about the Mau? You need to understand that the revenue that comes from Mau through Maasai Mara and Lake Nakuru alone is about Sh5 billion; hydropower potential of the Mau is over 508 megawatts which represents 41 percent of electricity requirements in this country. Other than that it supports the tea sector in Kericho and Nandi districts where we get a total of Sh15.2 billion per annum,” he observed.
He added that the tea sector provided 50,000 jobs for Kenyans which translated to its supporting of 645,000 dependants who were directly engaged in the tea sector.
“Aside from that, last year rice farmers earned Sh1 billion as a result of rice farming in Rivers Nyando and Yala swamps whose source of water is also the Mau. This forest feeds Lakes Victoria, Natron, Naivasha, Baringo and Turkana. Without the Mau we are doomed as a country,” he emphasised.
He also explained that the third phase of the Mau rehabilitation efforts would focus on land that was formerly handed over to civilians by government.
“In the third phase we will focus on people who got title deeds and letters of ownership of forest land from government. That is the direction that we will take next to see how Kenyans can be helped to restore their forests and at the same time protect their rights to ownership of property,” he said.
Meanwhile South Rift Church leaders continued to blame the Mau Taskforce for the humanitarian crisis being experienced in the evictions of South Western Mau.
In a statement read by Bishop Paul Leleito, who is a member of the taskforce, said the team failed to accomplish its mandate for provision of basic necessities to the evictees.
“Of special reference to this case is taskforce objective Number b where we were to provide for the relocation of the people currently residing in the forest. The government is creating this unnecessary crisis and is rendering people homeless and without food,” he said.
He also stated that the government’s transport offer to the settlers was a mockery of justice to the affected communities further claiming that the Sh38 billion set aside for the restoration of Mau was in bad taste and a misuse of public funds.
“Why is the government feeding the very same people it evicted? This does not portray good stewardship of government resources and I even wonder if the people will be allowed back into the forest to harvest their food,” he said.
Bishop Leleito said land matters in Kenya were very sensitive and asked the government to respect ancestral boundaries of every community. He added that if the draft constitution did not address the land issue adequately, then the country would be courting a potentially explosive problem in the future noting that the June 2005 evictions in Maasai Mau caused the destruction of property worth more than Sh300 million yet the evictees were yet to be compensated.
“Seven public schools and three private ones were torched, more than 7,400 registered land owners displaced and their property destroyed and the government has not compensated any of them,” he said.
Phase one of the Mau rehabilitation programme is on the recovery of land which had been parcelled or de-gazetted but never allocated to anyone; so the land has been de-gazetted from becoming a settlement to a forest but it has not been assigned to anyone.
In this phase the government has been able to recover the Leakey Extension (530 acres of land) and intends to recover LR 25/148 land which is about 1050 acres as well as some land in Mariashoni. In total the land that has been parcelled, de-gazetted but not allocated is about 5000 hectares.
The government is now in the second phase of relocation and rehabilitation (South West Mau where 19,000 hectares of land will be recovered).
The third phase will target those who own land in the water tower legally and it will also evict them. However these settlers will either be compensated with money or alternative land.