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January 22, 2019

Mau evictions may have led to deadly clashes in Narok

Narok County Commissioner George Natembeya during a peace meeting at Ololoibangi in Narok South sub county on Saturday.
Narok County Commissioner George Natembeya during a peace meeting at Ololoibangi in Narok South sub county on Saturday.

The clashes that have left four people dead in Narok South could be linked to evictions from the Mau Forest, the Star has learnt.

Landowners who felt duped into buying non-existent parcels are venting their frustrations on one community.

The clashes erupted after a herder was killed in Nkoiben. Thirty-three people suffered serious arrow injuries and more than 60 houses have been torched. This has raised tension between two communities living in Nkoiben, Sagam, Olmegenyu and Oloilabangi near the Maasai Mau Forest.

Two major communities – the Kalenjin and Maasai – are pointing fingers at each other. The Maasai community feels that Kalenjins are responsible for the wanton destruction of the forest. The Kalenjin community says they were cheated into purchasing land that did not exist.

In August, the government said those evicted from the forest will not be compensated.

When asked if the clashes have anything to do with the evictions, Narok county commissioner George Natembeya said, “That is an angle we are looking at.”

Natembeya on Monday said more than 300 police officers have been deployed to quell the tension.

They have intensified patrols and are working round the clock to avert further conflict, he said.

Natembeya warned leaders against inciting communities to violence.

He said those found involved would be arrested and prosecuted. “We’ve beefed up security and are investigating some politicians,” Natembeya said on the phone.

Some politicians are being probed for incitement.

A section of politicians from South Rift are up in arms over the evictions. This is after Environment CS Keriako Tobiko said compensating those evicted “is tantamount to validating an illegality”.

The MPs termed Tobiko’s remarks as “insensitive”. “The documents these people are holding cannot be called mere papers,” Kipkelion West MP Hillary Kosgei said.

Lands CS Faridah Karoney has differed with Tobiko over the legality of the title deeds. She faulted Tobiko, saying the process of invalidating a title deed is clear.

Documents in our possession show five group ranches were illegally hived off the forest before selling land to unsuspecting individuals.

The genesis of Maasai Mau encroachment, according to the documents, started when five group ranches adjacent to the bloc adjudicated in 1970s applied for consent from the local land control board to subdivide their land among members.

The documents show Sisiyan Group Ranch originally had 1,105.7948 acres. That ballooned to 2,618.57 acres after subdivision, bringing, an additional titled forest area to 1,810.044 acres.

The Nkaroni Group Ranch had 3,947.50 acres during the first registration. It shot up to 19,424.92 acres – an addition of 17,611.91 acres.

Enoosokon Group Ranch had 383.10 acres that later ballooned to 4,258.60 acres – an addition of 3,937.37 acres.

The Enakishomi Group Ranch had 2,086.80 acres before it increased to 20,186.99 acres — 18,100.19 acres.

The Reyio Group Ranch had 64.24 acres, before increasing to 798.14 acres after subdivision.

About 42,007.85 acres were illegally hived off the forest. Maasai Mau covers 114,355.25 acres. The unsuspecting buyers are now being kicked out, to the fury of their leaders.

Last week, former Bomet governor Isaac Rutto said those who moved out “were in bad shape, while others have died.” “Children have died due to cold yet some people were still planning to proceed with evictions,” he said.

Rutto who served shortly as Environment and Natural Resources minister during former President Daniel Moi’s regime in 2002 said the cutline in Mau Nakuru had been dealt with.

He said then, laws gave the President powers to excise land for purposes of resettlement without having to go through Parliament. In August, Rutto visited Mau on a fact-finding mission.

Rutto said they had been told there is a cutline by Hassan Noor and Ole Ntutu Commission.

“Who is Noor? He is not an authority. The cutline by Nyayo Tea Zone must be used,” he said.

Natembeya termed Rutto’s utterances as “his opinion.”

“Tea zone was part of the scheme to encroach,” Natembeya said.

During the first phase, 1,772 households totalling 8,860 persons were moved out the forest.

Some 3,000 livestock were also moved out the forest while crops on farms were spared and owners allowed to harvest once they matured.

Approximately 11,119.725 acres of forest land was recovered.

Already, restoration of the recovered areas has started.

A light aircraft dropped millions of seedlings in the degraded areas.

The technology has been used in US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and Brazil.

Aerial seeding is a technique of sowing seeds by spraying them through aeroplanes or drones.

More than 10 million trees were planted.

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