One year since illegal settlers were kicked out of South West Mau to pave the way for the forest rehabilitation, criticism is mounting over their continued stay in transitional camps.
A politician is accusing the government of neglecting the evictees. The 4,985 families are wasting away in nine transitional camps in Kuresoi and Bureti districts.
Kuresoi MP Zakayo Cheruiyot named the camps as Kurbanya, Kipkongor, Tarta, Tirigoi, Kong’asis, Kipkoris, Kusumek, Kiletien and Cheptalukiat.
Three other camps in Konoin Division of Bureti District play host to about 10,000 evictees. Mr Cheruiyot said the families were living in abject poverty with many going to sleep on empty stomachs on a daily basis.
And their camps are in a deplorable condition with the cold weather and persistent heavy rains making their condition even worse. He blamed 37 deaths reported in the camps on disease, lack of food and poor medical services.
Among the dead are nine evictees from Kipkongor, eight from Kongasis, one each from Kipkoris and Cheptalukiat, 12 from Tarta and three from Kurbanyat.
He described the Sh3.5 million realised in a funds drive organised by Rift Valley MPs as a drop in the ocean. The money was given to the Kenya Red Cross to buy food for the victims early this year.
Kuresoi district commissioner Cyrus Gatobu confirmed the deaths but attributed them to “natural illnesses”. However, Mr Gatobu insisted that the evictees still receive adequate food rations every three months.
The DC said government services had been derailed by heavy rains that had made roads in the area impassable, with relief supplies being ferried to the camps using tractors and donkeys.
He said the last consignment of about 40 blankets and 34 tarpaulins reached the most needy victims last month. Mr Cheruiyot, who was speaking in Molo Town on Wednesday, accused the government of dragging its feet over the resettlement of the evictees.
“When Rift Valley MPs paid a visit to the President in State House early this year, a proposal to set aside Sh3 billion to buy land and resettle the victims was reached, but so far nothing has been done,” said the MP.
He claimed the money was allocated to the Lands ministry to purchase two parcels of land in Mau Narok, Narok North District.
However, the legislator alleged that a group of powerful individuals in the ministry and a wing of government are opposed to the move.
Meanwhile, efforts to restore the Mau Forest Complex, which is the biggest water tower in the country, are on course, according to the Interim Coordinating Secretariat chairman, Mr Noor Hassan Noor.
Mr Noor told the Nation in an interview that his secretariat had succeeded in stopping wanton destruction of the 400,000-hectare forest.
He said the water levels of the rivers emanating from Mau had risen and so were the water levels in nearby Lake Nakuru.
“There is a lot of regeneration currently going on in the forest. The Makalia Falls are in their prime and the water in the Mara has risen incredibly,” he said.
However, he was hard-pressed to explain why the third phase of the eviction, which will target Maasai Mau section had not been effected.
A number of leaders, among them Narok South MP Nkoidila ole Lankas, chairman of Friends of Mau Conservation lobby group Jackson ole Kamuye and Councillor Salankat ole Nchoe have expressed concern at the slow pace of the process, accusing the government of developing cold feet.
Government is dilly-dallying
“The government is dilly-dallying on this issue. We need to see people moving out and if they are unable let them ask us (Narok County Council) for support,” said Mr Kamuye.
Mr Noor said the third phase involved people with title deeds who were eligible for compensation, adding that profiling, verification of titles and data analysis was taking time “to ensure the results were beyond reproach.”
He said he could not set the date for the official commencement of the third phase of the evictions as it was to be dictated by availability of funds.
A member of the secretariat, who did not wish to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter, had claimed in an earlier interview that the Treasury failed to honour its promise of factoring in resettlement funds for the remaining three phases in the last budget.
“The whole thing boils down to money. We need to be supported ... we need money to resettle those who have genuine titles,” said the official.
While Finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta gave the national climate change strategy an additional Sh13.4 billion and another Sh2 billion for the carbon emission trading scheme, it was not clear how much of this trickled down to the restoration of the Mau.
Mr Noor said his secretariat, in conjunction with the Treasury, was in advanced stages of rolling out a carbon trade scheme which will raise the money for conservation.
“We have held three meetings and I can assure you that once we roll out this, Mau restoration will not require a cent from the government. It will sustain itself,’ he said.
According to the “Rehabilitation of Mau forest Ecosystem” document, the ICS needs Sh7.1 billion to fund its conservation efforts.
At the same time, settlers in the Maasai Mau continued to dig in, insisting they would only budge if they were paid or given alternative settlements.
Retired senior chief Christopher Bore, who was a member of the Mau Task Force, but did not sign its findings, said on Wednesday that if the government was serious on the issue of conservation, it would have released funds for compensation and resettlement.
Settlers are not going anywhere
“Settlers are not going anywhere as they have nowhere to go back to,” he said at “Sierra Leone” which bore the brunt of the 2005 evictions.
A spot check by the Nation shows that settlers are going about their businesses unperturbed in most parts of the forest.
Some 15,000 people are settled on the 46,278-hectare Maasai Mau, which is a trust land of the Narok County Council.
Mr Noor indicated that after the conclusion of the third phase, attention would turn on the 2001 excisions in which 61,000 hectares were carved out and allocated to “the big fish.”