, MOLO, Kenya, Jan 15- Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Friday launched the controversial Mau Forest tree planting drive maintaining that the government was fully behind the rehabilitation of the water tower.
The Premiere said the rehabilitation initiative which has been marred by controversy would soon get into its third phase, targeting those who legally own land in the water tower.
He said the government would not relent in its efforts to rehabilitate the water tower as calls to conserve it were too crucial to be ignored.
“The government has come to the Mau so let no one say there are divisions within government. President Kibaki had other things to do in Nairobi and I came to lead Kenyans in planting trees here. Is that not the government? Or you think Raila is half government?” he posed amidst laughter.
Mr Odinga also asked Kenyans to avoid politicising the conservation of the water tower and to instead focus on the benefits that the country as well as Africa would get from its reclamation efforts.
“When we are done conserving the Mau you will see that those who were against the conservation will realize that these efforts were necessary. The Swahili say that when a child cries for a razor blade give it to him but now the child already has the razor and he has injured himself using it. We must now treat the child,” he stated causing laughter.
Also at the function, was Narok South MP Nkoidila Lankas who – in reference to a boycott by Rift Valley MPs to join in the exercise – said Kenyans were behind the Prime Minister in his efforts.
“I want you to know that Kenyans are behind you and you shall never walk alone. Some people said that you were alone in this but today you have witnessed that you are not alone,” he said.
Area MP Joseph Kiuna who was also present said the exercise should mark the start of the re-forestation efforts in all the water towers in the country.
“Those who have been ridiculing the Prime Minister’s bid to reclaim the water tower have been digging their own graves. The Mau forest affects and impacts the lives of many people and they all have one cry; which is to return the Mau to its former glory. We have all been affected its degradation effects,” he said.
Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai also accompanied the Premiere and other government officials at the launch. She asked Kenyans to ignore politicians who were polarizing the Mau rehabilitation process saying the water tower was too important for Kenya.
“Let us not look at the Prime Minister like he is just playing politics. Our leaders are Prime Minister Odinga and President Kibaki; let us not ask where the president is because he had other duties to attend to in Nairobi and the Prime Minister’s work was here in the Mau na kazi inaendelea (and work will continue),” she said.
She also commended efforts taken by the government in rehabilitating the water tower so far.
“I came here today because I wanted to join hands with the Prime Minister and the government to save the Mau. I made noise for almost twenty years on the importance of conserving forests and the environment but no one listened but for the first time the government has realized why is important to conserve the environment,” she said.