NGONG FOREST LAND STANDOFF

Tobiko, stop hiding behind a fig leaf of ignorance

Either the CS has a very short memory, or he is being deliberately euphemistic.

In Summary

• The Langata residents, who are the home owners on that land, and the religious organisations that have erected sanctuaries of worship bought this land from someone.

• It is highly unlikely that this transaction was in cash. So there must be records of the seller, and details of their bank accounts. They in turn would tell you from who they acquired the land. 

Environment CS Keriako Tobiko
Environment CS Keriako Tobiko
Image: FILE

At once they saw what they had done, and they realised they were naked. Then they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from God among the trees of the garden.

But God called to the man, “where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

We are all familiar with this story in the book of Genesis, which gives an account of the fall of Adam and Eve. They succumbed to the serpent’s temptation and ate of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.

In politico-speak, the expression fig leaf is widely used figuratively to convey the covering up of an act that is embarrassing or distasteful, and one that exposes more than it seeks to cover.

 
 
 

This week, we witnessed Kenya’s rendition of the political fig leaf.

 Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko appeared before the National Assembly’s Environment Committee and confirmed that the Ngong Road Forest was acquired illegally and fraudulently, and allotted to powerful individuals.

He went further to reassert that his Ministry will not negotiate its repossession because it is a policy of the government to ensure any forest land that has been illegally acquired is reclaimed, restored, preserved and protected.

Subsequently, several houses, each with an estimated value of Sh20 million, and some churches are set to be demolished, rendering several hard working Kenyans homeless and churchless.

When asked who were the initial beneficiaries of this illegal and fraudulent allocation, Tobiko said most of them were entities and companies, but the respective directors could not be traced at the Registrar of Companies, because the 95 of them were created to conceal the fraudulent transactions.

Begs the question, is Tobiko hiding behind a fig leaf by telling us he cannot trace the directors of the companies that were listed as initial beneficiaries?

If he doesn’t know who they are, how then does he know the companies were created for the sole purpose of concealing the fraudulent transactions?

Or that the beneficiaries are mighty and powerful individuals? Could it be that he knows who they are, but is too embarrassed to reveal their names, and thus hiding behind a fig leaf of ignorance?

 
 
 

To tell the nation that the names of the directors cannot be traced at the Registrar of Companies is, as with the fig leaf, to expose more than he is covering up.  This is because he has publicly revealed the name of Francis Lotodo, the minister who degazetted the forest in 1998.

Although Lotodo has since died, it would be foolhardy to believe he worked in isolation. So, isn’t it possible to follow up with those who worked with him at the time to trace the illegal allottees?

Likewise, he has also named MP Kimani Ngunjiri as one of the beneficiaries. Is it impossible to use the same means he used to find Kimani to find the others?

The Langata residents, who are the home owners on that land, and the religious organisations that have erected sanctuaries of worship bought this land from someone. It is highly unlikely that this transaction was in cash. So there must be records of the seller, and details of their bank accounts. They in turn would tell you from who they acquired the land. 

Tobiko, would you also have us believe it is impossible to trace these records too? Or are you simply unwilling to go down that rabbit hole?

To protect their investments, the Langata residents successfully obtained court orders stopping any demolition of their homes pending determination of their case. On his part, the CS publicly admitted to the Environment Committee that his ministry is open to talks with the homeowners to find a solution, on condition they admit to holding illegal titles.

This conditionality raises several questions. One, does the admission by the Langata residents that they are holding illegal titles legitimise them?

Two, does their admission make them illegal and fraudulent owners of forest land?

Three, does this set a precedence where in future all it will take is to admit holding an illegal title, and voila! a solution will be found?

Four, can this magic pill be retroactively applied to the Mau, Ruai, Kariobangi and Gikomba residents?

Either the CS has a very short memory, or he is being deliberately euphemistic.

In one sitting, he told the Environment Committee that his ministry will not negotiate the Ngong Forest’s repossession, because it is the government’s policy to ensure any forest land illegally acquired is reclaimed, restored, preserved and protected.

In the same breath, he told the same committee that he is open to talks with the homeowners. Is it probable that no one on that committee caught this contradiction?

Or are they too, like the CS, afraid to bell the cat? And if they can’t, are they worthy of constituting that committee?

This fig leaf of ignorance is what the EACC hid behind to tell us that they could not identify the beneficiary of Sh112 million in the NCPB maize heist, yet they were able to identify powerful players as far away as South Africa, Russia and Switzerland. Are we really this gullible?

Finally, my unsolicited advice is to the religious organisations that have been caught up in this unfortunate situation. Do not burden your worshippers with Reductio ad Absurdum.

You have asked many of them to pray so that the ministry does not follow through with its eviction or demolition threat.

Your request to your worshippers implies that God responds to popular opinion.

But if God simply granted prayers based on how many people prayed to him on a specific issue, that would be unjust and absurd. Yet God is a just God.

Like Adam and Eve, do not hide behind the fig leaf of prayer. If the land was illegally acquired, you are worshipping from a poisoned chalice. What Would Jesus Do?

It is not the crime that gets you; it is the cover up - Anonymous