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Showdown looms as Rift Valley leaders protest planned Mau eviction

Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot and Belgut MP Nelson Koech when they addressed a news conference over Mau Forest evictions on September 1, 2019. Photo/JEMIMMAH MUENI.

NAIROBI, Kenya Sep 1 – A showdown is looming in Mau Complex after a section of Rift Valley leaders vowed to resist a planned eviction of over 60,000 families by the government from Monday, to conserve the water catchment area.

Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot and Belgut MP Nelson Koech insist residents there are holding genuine titles and accused President Uhuru Kenyatta of reneging on his promise that no one will be evicted from the complex.

“This exercise is illegal, we will not allow the evictions to go on because it is discriminatory to the people,” Cheruiyot said.

The two leaders, who spoke to journalists at a news conference in Nairobi on Sunday, said they will resist any attempt to evict locals, while terming an order by Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko as illegal.

Already Rift Valley County Commissioner George Natembeya has ordered 15 schools in Mau Forest closed, and warned parents against sending their children there on Monday when schools re-open for third term, setting off a major controversy.

But the two leaders who addressed a press conference on Sunday, insist pupils should report to school, while terming the government move as discriminatory and unconstitutional.

“I am telling CS Tobiko to try evict us and he will see our reaction, we are not leaving Mau and we will never leave Mau let him think about something else and I am telling those people living in Mau on Monday let your children go to school like any other children,” said Koech, the Belgut MP.

President Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto have not commented on the matter that is turning out to be the hottest political debate exposing even further the perceived rift between the two top leaders and their supporters in the ruling Jubilee Party.

“I think it’s the right time for the President to address the Mau issue because if 5000 children will wake up on Monday morning and are not assured of having a school where they closed in second term and I think nothing could be more important in this country than that, therefore it’s important that the President and his Deputy address the country on this issue because their silence is shocking,” said Senator Cheruiyot.

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If the evictions go on as planned from Monday, more than 10,000 school-going children will be affected.

“The exercise that he is engaging in is nothing but pure politics, and we want Kenyans to understand that we don’t claim that anyone should live inside the Mau forest, what we are saying is Masai Mau trust land is not inside the Mau forest and I challenge CS Tobiko to show any gazette notice confirming that that area has been gazetted into a public land,” said Senator Cheruiyot.

The leaders claim that the CS is “not doing anything to do with conservation, but rather engaging in political experiments”.

Cheruiyot also alleged that Tobiko was acting on his own, and claimed that the Cabinet has never deliberated on the Mau issue.

The Mau evictions debate has been going on for several years, with most of Rift Valley leaders saying evictions will cause a humanitarian crisis.
A group of lawyers from Rift Valley have already filed a case in court to thwart the government’s plans to evict the families.

The government through the Ministry of Environment has however, maintained that people must move out.

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