Revealed: Big names given Mau Forest land

Thursday April 2 2009

Soldiers use tree branches to put out a raging fire that ravaged Nasuit Mau-East forest in March. There has been controversy over settlement in the forest. Photo/FILE

Soldiers use tree branches to put out a raging fire that ravaged Nasuit Mau-East forest in March 2009. There has been controversy over settlement in the forest. Photo/FILE 

By MARK AGUTU

Twenty-five powerful individuals were given 500 hectares of Mau forest, according to a government report.

They included former President Moi’s son Gideon Moi, Baringo Central MP Sammy Mwaita, who was at the time the Commissioner of Lands, a former presidential aide Joshua Kulei, former nominated MP Mark Too and former PS now MP Zacharia Cheruiyot, among others.

Many were allocated 20 hectares, well above the five hectares, which the regulations say is the standard size in settlement schemes. Some, such as Mr Mwaita, were allocated many pieces.

The allocations started in 1996 with the intention of resettling the forest-dwelling Ogiek community and families displaced in the ethnic clashes. More than 60,000 hectares of forest cover was destroyed and turned to farmland, with very little going to the intended beneficiaries.

Experts warn that the destruction of Mau forest will cause an environmental disaster in Kenya, resulting in a reduction in rainfall, wiping out farms and drying up rivers and lakes.

The Mau system of forests is the biggest of Kenya’s five water sources. It is the source of 12 rivers, which sustain five lakes. Already, the rivers and lakes are drying up.

The report is prepared by a Task Force appointed by Prime Minister Raila Odinga. It recommends that all settlers be cleared out of the forest with the small holders being given alternative land or compensation. The top people are to be evicted and paid no compensation, the report of the task force says.

Presentation of the report to the government has been delayed because some Task Force members have refused to endorse it. The team lists individuals and companies who were allocated land in 18 settlement schemes within the Mau Complex between 1996 and 2005.

It reveals that correspondence it analysed shows huge chunks of the Mau Complex were excised by public officials who had no legal authority to carry to so. Chiefs, district officers, district commissioners, provincial commissioners and departmental lands and forest officers benefited.

“The activities of these personalities signify the complete breakdown of the rule of law and order in land allocation. The various officers acted with such impunity and disregard to wider social, economic, ecological and development interests of the country,” the Task Force says, adding:

“Because of the involvement of entities other than the ones with legal authority in the allocation of land within Mau Forest Complex, there were cases of double and even triple allocations; with many involving forgery, which gives rise to actionable legal issues and interfere with proper conservancy of Mau Forest Complex.”

The Task Force names the affected settlement schemes as Marioshoni, Likia, Korao, Ndoinet, Kapsita Molo, Kapsita, Sururu, Ngongongeri, Saino Teret, Nessuit, Tinet Sotik, Kiptagich, Kiptagich Extension, Baraget, Baraget Likia Extension, Londiani Jourbet Kedowa and Changeya.
The Process Report by the Task Force on Conservation of Mau Forest Complex on Task Force Recommendations awaits presentation to the Prime Minister amid sharp divisions among its membership.

Annextures to the recommendations list names of top officials of former President Moi’s government, sitting MPs, permanent secretaries, parastatal chiefs on the basis of individual settlement schemes where they were allocated 20 hectares of land each. At Kiptagich Extension, the team lists 38 top officials of President Moi’s government who were allocated land.

Twenty five top personalities, among them a senior Cabinet minister, a permanent secretary, five sitting MPs, and a former provincial commissioner in the current government were again allocated land at Ngongongeri.

At Mariashoni, 18 companies were allocated portions ranging from four to eight hectares of land each in 1998 alone. At Kiptagich, 20 groups, among them two parastatals, a secondary school and a church leader were the beneficiaries of portions ranging from 2.8 to 23 hectares.

“The general observation made is that most of the beneficiaries were not intended allottees according to the registers and the green cards.

Apart from allocation made in 2005, the allocations made in the various settlement schemes prior to the 2005 did not have proper authorization,” the Task Force said. Most allocations (1996 to 2005) were not for development, but for political reward and speculative purposes.