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January 21, 2019

Governor’s bid to stop evictions flops

Locals assist an evicted man after he was attacked by Kenya Forest Service officers evicting settlers from the Mau Forest, Thursday, July 19, 2018. /KIPLANG'AT KIRUI
Locals assist an evicted man after he was attacked by Kenya Forest Service officers evicting settlers from the Mau Forest, Thursday, July 19, 2018. /KIPLANG'AT KIRUI

The recent Mau Forest Evictions standoff has taken a new turn after Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony moved to court in a bid to stop the evictions.

Through lawyer Peter Wanyama, the governor filed a petition yesterday at the Narok high court asking the court to temporarily stop the forceful evictions of people who have lawful title deeds from Mau Forest.

Chepkwony claims that the evictions are being done in the most inhumane manner and security officers are burning houses, livestock and beating up property owners in a display of impunity.

“From July 7 2018, the government without any right or legal authority and in utter disrespect of property rights and human dignity of the petitioner, have illegally and with impunity, commenced forceful eviction and alienation of the private owners of individual property of all the land comprising of former group ranches” he says.

According to the Governor, in 2008 the government created a cutline to separate the group ranches and the forest.

He also says that the Nyayo Tea Zones Development Corporation was then allocated the land that borders the forest and they have planted tea on this land further arguing that there is a huge land cutline that separates the private land owners in the former group ranches and the Mau Forest.

Some Bomet residents yesterday held protests against the ongoing evictions from the Mau Forest.

The more than 100 people said they were unhappy with the manner in which the evictions are being done. Led by Bomet-based activist Enock Kemei, they also took issue with remarks made by Narok leaders, who supported the evictions.

Kemei said it was sad some leaders from the Maa community threatened to join the eviction and drive settlers out of the forest.

“How could a senator incite his community to join the evictions? As we ask for the evictions to stop and allow for compensation, these few individuals with selfish interests should keep off,” Kemei said.

Kemei said if Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina makes good his threat to mobilise the Maasai to join the evictions, they may be forced to retaliate.

“We will not take such sentiments lying down and Senator ole Kina should respect the rights of those living near the Mau,” Kemei said.

He said the ejection by the government was in bad faith and geared at punishing the evictees.

Kemei said: “We read mischief in this move. The government is not acting in good faith and was only out to punish the evictees and the Kipsigis community by extension,”

He said it was regrettable that the matter had been politicised.

On Monday, hundreds of Narok residents marched to protest against calls by some politicians to stop the evictions. Their spokesman, Meitamei olol Dapash, criticised Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, saying he is crying for children in four affected schools yet more people across the continent depend on the Mau ecosystem.

“We have suffered too long because we are obedient and accommodating people. We cannot [agree with] leaders who come from other counties to rubbish government efforts to conserve the forest,” Dapash said.

MPs Gabriel Tongoyo (Narok West), Lemanken Aramat (Narok East), Korei Ole Lemein (Narok South) and David ole Sankok (nominated JP) on Tuesday, also warned against politicising the issue, warning it will cause ethnic tension. The youth also warned the Jubilee leadership against threats to replace Murkomen as the Senate Majority leader.

They said such move would mark the end of the Jubilee marriage, and would indicate after the election, Rift Valley residents no longer matter to the government.

“It would be a strong statement that we no longer matter to Jubilee, and we will ship out enmass in case Murkomen is replaced,” one of the protesters said.

Meanwhile, Murkomen has termed as ‘reckless’ remarks by Narok county commissioner George Natembeya that settlers are the ones burning their houses.

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