NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 26- Barely hours after Special Programmes Minister Naomi Shaban joined 10 Cabinet colleagues and 47 MPs for a harambee in aid of Mau evictees, she now says the meeting was normal and not a show of defiance against Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
Dr Shabaan attended a meeting with the PM on Thursday morning to discuss the eviction progress where she told journalists that Wednesday’s fundraiser was purely meant for the aid of the displaced families.
“You are aware that every time the country is faced by a crisis we as government hold Harambees that bring together ministers and parliamentarians including the Prime Minister and the President. Yesterday (Wednesday) was not the first time and it was necessary so that we ensure that the Kenyans who have been faced by the evictions are able to pick up their lives again,” she said.
The Minister also defended the leaders who attended the harambee saying they were not opposed to rehabilitation of the water tower but were only coming in good faith to rescue the situation.
“When we start brewing politics in this situation, we risk dividing our people for nothing. Therefore as the government we have resolved to work together with Rift Valley leaders because we do not have a choice. If we exclude them from the Mau eviction plans we will create room for speculation and tension.”
She also said that the government would embark on phase two of its Mau rehabilitation programme which would be targeting settlers who hold legal Mau land ownership documents.
“The second stage of the Mau rehabilitation plan will start directly but since we do not want to worsen the situation we must first get enough funds that will compensate those who will be targeted in the second phase (Those who have title deeds to the Mau land),” she explained.
Dr Shaban further added that the government through the office of the Prime Minister was in talks with donors to help Kenya raise funds that would go towards compensating the legal Mau settlers.
“We are negotiating with our development partners to help get finances to offset the land that the legal settlers will lose. We must as government ensure that we have the resources that will smoothly facilitate our second phase of the Mau evictions,” she noted adding that phase one of the evictions (on going) had had hitches because the evictees were too many.
“The first stage has been marred by some challenges. The evictees have become mixed up and their number is also huge. For these reasons we have been forced to ensure the people who we are catering for (with the humanitarian assistance) were actually evicted from the Mau and are not fake,” she observed.
She also defended the government against allegations that the evictions were inhumane further revealing that the government had so far spent Sh12.2 million in humanitarian efforts of the Mau and that no one had been forcefully evicted from the water tower.
“The meeting that we just had underscores the government’s commitment to a humane relocation of families from the forest. The government has spent Sh5, 174,670 on relief food to those leaving the forest and Sh7, 026,430 on non food items,” she explained.
Dr Shaban re-affirmed the government’s previous statement that it would rely on data sources to help verify the evictees’ original homes however revealing that the tallying exercise which according to chairman of the Mau Complex Secretariat Hassan Noor Hassan had already started was yet to kick off.
“We agreed to depend on three data sources to verify the origins and identity of those currently in the camps. The data will be able to give us a clear picture in order to give assistance for resettlement and this tallying exercise should take at most a week and begins immediately,” she said.
Others who attended the meeting were Internal security minister Prof George Saitoti, Lands minister James Orengo, Forestry and Wildlife minister Dr Noah Wekesa.
To date up to 50,000 acres have been secured and the reforestation programme is already on course. A tree nursery with over 300,000 seedlings has been established for replanting in Ndoinet area of Mau.
Meanwhile evictees from about two hundred families ordered to vacate Shamanek forest in Nyahururu district a month ago have now returned and started to rebuild their structures saying they had title-deed proving ownership of the parcels.