Baringo Central MP Sammy Mwaita and the Catholic Church are among the biggest beneficiaries of land allocations in the Mau Forest, according to a list tabled in Parliament on Wednesday by Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
Mr Odinga named 49 individuals and companies given land in the forest, whose destruction has caused widespread public alarm as it poses a threat to water security in the country.
Each beneficiary was allocated more than 20 hectares in the Mau in Nakuru and Narok districts.
Mr Odinga tabled the list in response to a challenge by Ikolomani MP Boni Khalwale.
Kiptagich Tea Estates, Sian Enterprises and Kelewa Enterprises — all believed to be associated with retired President Daniel arap Moi — were given 80, 118.89 and 28.80 hectares respectively.
Mr Gideon Moi, a former Baringo Central MP, received 44.74 hectares in the same area.
A State House Comptroller in the Moi administration, Mr John Lokorio was listed as having received 23.50 hectares in Nakuru. A Mr ZP Cheruyoit received 1,955 hectares. Mr Mwaita, a long-serving Commissioner of Lands, acquired 23.50 hectares, also in Nakuru.
Many of the allottees were influential people in the Moi administration while others were their relatives. A lot of the land was acquired through companies.
The Little Sisters of St. Francis of the Catholic Church got a hefty chunk, some 2,956 hectares.
The Government also reserved plots of 27.43 hectares for a trading centre and 71.84 for a dam.
The biggest beneficiary, however, is Ololarusi Investment Farm which acquired 4,001 hectares on the Narok side of the forest while a Mr Korema ole Surum got 2,988 hectares and a Mr Francis Lemiso Kipturkut got 2,653 hectares.
The list tabled accounted for only 18,102 hectares of forest land allocated irregularly.
The total area of the Mau under human habitation is estimated at between 100,000 hectares and 400,000 hectares.
Mr Mwaita, speaking after the list was tabled, said he offered his piece of land to 15 “deserving Kenyans,” after subdivision. “All the records to that effect are at the Land Registry in Nakuru,” he said.
Mr Odinga has said the names will only be made public after the report of the task force he appointed to look into the Mau was taken to Cabinet for approval and brought to the House for debate. Responding to questions after reading a statement on the ongoing conservation efforts, Mr Odinga reiterated that he was ready to pay the political price in his quest to conserve the water source.
The Mau catastrophe is a national issue which will affect the country for many years to come if not addressed.
“I will not be intimidated. I have nothing to fear because I know what I am doing is in the best interests of this nation and I am speaking nothing but the truth,” he said.
The taskforce says that 18,516 title deeds issued in 2001 were irregular and more than 80 per cent of them were issued to non-deserving people.
In the Maasai Mau, 29,000 hectares of forest land has been illegally taken by over 2,500 households.
Mr Odinga criticised some Rift Valley MPs and accused them of incitement and engaging in “cheap populist politics” after they criticised him at the weekend.
He said their utterances took him by surprise coming days after he had met them and agreed on compensation and resettlement of those affected. He singled out Chepalungu MP Isaac Rutto whom he accused of trying to incite the Kalenjin community against him.
“This is a delicate issue and MPs must know that it is very easy to use it to incite a community. We are a responsible government and we want the MPs to help us solve a serious problem,” he said.
He added, to the applause of the House: “Some of the MPs do not... know the consequences of what they are doing and that is why they need to be taught.”
His statement did not please Mr Rutto and his Cherengany counterpart, Mr Joshua Kutuny, who said that they were fighting for the human rights of their electorate.
They accused the PM of disrespecting Rift Valley MPs and imputing improper motives on those who raise concerns about the Mau plans.
Responding to claims by some of the MPs that the Government had not set aside money for resettlement, Mr Odinga clarified that part of the Sh38 billion that the government needs to fix Mau will be used to compensate and resettle those with title deeds.
However, the bulk of the money will be spent on restoration of the forest, a comprehensive survey, mapping, fencing and planting of trees.
Most of the MPs who stood to ask supplementary questions supported the conservation efforts, but demanded firm action and a time frame for restoring the forest.
Yatta MP Charles Kilonzo said the government had taken too long to act. “We expect the Government to act and we don’t even want to see the taskforce report,” he said.
In response, the PM said the government will act after the report is approved by the Cabinet and debated in Parliament.
Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara said Mr Odinga had provided leadership to the nation at a time when it desperately needed it.
And while responding to Dr Khalwale’s question about the Government’s stand on ministers and their assistants who have publicly been contradicting the government, Mr Odinga said matter will be dealt with by the Cabinet.
He said it was unfortunate that some ministers chose to go public when they have an opportunity to raise their concerns in Cabinet meetings.