, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 3 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Wednesday said the government was on track in the restoration of the Mau forest and resettlement of those evicted during its reclamation.
He told Parliament that the government was also following due process to resettle those affected and urged them to desist from politicising the issue.
"Some MPs have made it their responsibility to use Mau as the fighting shield they keep brandishing wherever they go. (They keep saying)… our people… our people… I want to tell them, these are as much my people as they are his people. They are Kenyans," he said.
He said the government had requested the Treasury to allocate Sh3 billion to the Lands Ministry to purchase land to resettle those displaced from the forest as he defended the Ministry saying it was not sitting on any money since the funds were yet to be released.
Mr Odinga also said the government was keen to ensure land being bought to resettle those affected was purchased reasonably.
"The government has identified parcels of land to resettle these people. But the funds are not yet available to purchase the pieces of land," he said.
The Premier urged MPs not to sensationalise the process after Mosop MP David Koech asked him to confirm that 38 people had died in makeshift camps after being displaced from the forest.
At the same time he assured the House that the government was keenly vetting those to be resettled to block chances of corruption and also differentiate the genuine settlers from opportunists.
Mr Odinga who was taken to task to assure the House that powerful illegal owners would not be spared, said the government would respect everyone\’s rights but would reclaim illegally owned land.
He asked MPs also not to personalise the restoration process of the country\’s main water catchment forest and clarified that the key issue should be reclaiming and protecting the forest.
Responding to Ikolomani MP Dr Bonny Khalwale who wanted to the Premier to assure the House that the government would not spare former President Daniel Moi if he owned land at the complex, he said: "I want to assure Mr Moi if he acquired land legally, nothing will happen. If not, then of course the law will take its course. We do not want to revenge or to victimize so that we can move together forward united."
Though he acknowledged there were challenges of reluctance to move and invasions of the forest, he said the government had enough capacity to achieve its goal of protecting the area.
He also called for patience saying the process was in five phases and explained that the government was now in the 3rd phase of rehabilitating the forest.
He said the government was targeting about 2,500 people from South Western Mau and about 7,800 families in the Maasai Mau forest.
However he said more money will be required to resettle families that will be displaced in the 4th and 5th phases which should be completed in 2011.