Big names and soldiers next in Mau crackdown
Posted Saturday, November 28 2009 at 22:41
The memo will outline proposals for the compensation package to be offered as well as offer recommendations on what to do with those who refuse to surrender or sell back land they own, according to a source who attended the committee’s most recent meeting. Valuers have also been dispatched to the places targeted in Phase 3 and have reported that the value of the land has fallen sharply because there are few buyers, indicating the cost of buying back the land will not be as steep as initially feared.
One of the thorny issues will be arriving at decisions on what to do with the land registered in the names of a number of companies believed to be connected to former senior government officials. These include four companies whose files the Sunday Nation could not trace at the Registrar of Companies — Kelewa Enterprises, Kapkembu Tea Factory, Kaptagich Tea Estates and Ololarusi Investment Farm. Records indicate they hold a combined 18,102 hectares.
Writing in the Saturday Nation, Mr Odinga accused “well-to-do leaders masquerading as the peoples’ champions” and said their selfish interests were driving the efforts to oppose evictions. “Many of these well-connected leaders illegally acquired large tracts of land in the forest even though they now profess a commitment to the environment and have now discovered the importance of squatter interests.”
The Mau Forest complex is the largest of Kenya’s water towers. The 400,000- square hectare area is the size of the Mt Kenya and Aberdares water catchment areas combined. Water flowing from the Mau Forest feeds numerous lakes including several that are key tourist attractions such as Lake Victoria, Turkana, Baringo, Nakuru, Natron and Naivasha. Victoria, Turkana and Natron straddle several countries.
Large-scale occupation in the complex began in earnest when former President Moi de-gazetted sections of the forest in 2001. The destruction intensified in 2005 when President Kibaki gave title deeds to thousands of people who claimed land in the forest.
The decision to evict people from the Mau was taken in July 2008. But the saga has turned into a political battle between Mr Odinga, who backs the evictions, and Agriculture minister William Ruto, who is critical of the way the evictions are being conducted. The seizure of land claimed by key figures in the Moi regime may further widen the divisions over the exercise.
Reported by Murithi Mutiga and Lucas Barasa