, The Ministry of Forestry and the Ministry of Finance yesterday denied knowledge of any plan to pay compensation to large landowners evicted from the Mau Forest, as reported in the media.
The two ministries stated that the Mau issue was being handled by a secretariat in the Prime Minister’s office – attempting to give the impression that the PM alone would know of or author such compensation plans.
A section of MPs have also apparently expressed dismay at the idea of large landowners being compensated.
As most Kenyans are aware, there is a political game being played here.
In the interest of truthfulness and accountability and on behalf of the Prime Minister, I wish to state the following:
1. The plan to compensate landowners in the Mau was passed by Parliament, following an amendment to the Bill adopting the Report of the Government’s Task Force on the Conservation of the Mau Forest Complex, laid in the House on Wednesday, 12th August, 2009.
In its original form, the Task Force Report had contained no provision for compensation.
But an amendment introduced by the Hon Ekwe Ethuro, after weeks of lobbying by a section of MPs, made it mandatory that conservation of the Mau Forest be effected in line with the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act, Cap 295 of the Laws of Kenya, and the Registered Land Act, Cap 300 of the Laws of Kenya.
That amendment, sponsored by the lobbying MPs and passed in the House, introduced payment for all title-holders, no matter how their titles had been acquired.
Unfortunately, the amendment these MPs introduced and lobbied for was driven not by the national interest but by irresponsible personal and political motives against the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister’s position was, and has always been, that Kenyans cannot pay, and should not pay, for land irregularly acquired.
But he has always felt that the small landowners, with a maximum of 5 hactres, who bought it genuinely believing the land was legally on sale, be paid back their money as long as they can prove ownership and that money actually changed hands in the transaction.
It is therefore shamefully dishonest for certain MPs now to attempt to shift responsibility for this situation to the Prime Minister – when they know full well that it was they themselves who introduced, lobbied for and passed this legislation.
At the time they did so, a parliamentary grouping that saw the Mau issue as a platform for political mileage was taking shape.
Members of that ‘alliance’ had already attempted to kill off the entire Mau report. When that did not work, they single-mindedly voted for blanket compensation for all title-holders, large and small alike, whether the titles were legally or illegally acquired.
And with that vote, those MPs committed Kenyans to looking for money for Mau compensation that our country, devastated by drought and food shortages, cannot afford.
(For ease of reference, I attach the Hansard Report on the debate in Mau, showing how MPs committed Kenyans to this pay plan.)
As debate had raged in the House, the Ministry of Finance failed to rise to the occasion and state categorically that the proposed amendment had immense budgetary implications.
But neither the Finance nor the Forestry ministry can now turn round and claim that they are unaware of this amendment and its financial implications.
2. There are serious contradictions in the Finance Minister’s claims that he is looking for money to compensate and resettle those who have been removed from the Mau – but he has no plans to pay large landowners.
The Prime Minister’s position has always been that those who have left the forest so far were encroachers, with no legal claim to the land they occupied. Even the amendment in Parliament did not cover them. But he wanted some humanitarian assistance for them, so that they can restart and rebuild their lives after leaving the forest.
But the Ministry now wants to compensate these people, who have no legal claim to land they occupied – and yet, despite Parliament’s amendment, it wants to pay nothing to those who do have title deeds.
Again, these contradictions emanating from the Finance Ministry amount to nothing more than political chicanery.
The position taken raises serious questions about the Rule of Law and about the use of public funds for partisan or political gain.
It raises even more serious questions about the way Parliament is being used as a plaything by a certain section of MPs.
Kenyans are tired of being taken for a ride. They are tired of losing out while those in a position to save them play politics for their own personal ends.
Our country will never find solutions to its problems while these irresponsible games are allowed to continue.
DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATION
OFFICE OF THE PRIME MINISTER.