Only 32,615 hectares which represents a paltry eight per cent of the 400, 542 hectares of Mau Forest Complex has been recovered by the government in the last 20 years
The forest land that has so far been recovered in the phase one of the evictions include Enoosupukia (6,000 hectares), Olpusimoru forest (20,115 hectares), Naitupaki (2,000 hectares) and Maasai Mau (4,500 hectares) in the first phase.
The looming second phase of the evictions in Maasai Mau aims at recovering an additional 8,869 hectares.
The government’s bid to evict illegal forest inhabitants and reclaim the grabbed land in the water towers started in 1990 with little success owing to political pressure.
The critical water tower has 22 blocks and the latest efforts by the government to evict more than 10,000 people in Maasai Mau has met a lot of resistance from the squatters who are mainly from Bomet and Kericho.
The squatters claim they bought the land from the indigenous Ogiek community and from Maasai ranch owners who were politically connected to former Kanu regime under President Daniel arap Moi.
A former Ndaraweta Secondary School Principal Martha Keter said she bought the land from the Ole Ntutu family who owned thousands of acres in Maasai Mau.
“It is ridiculous that my land documents can be dismissed as fake yet I and my husband bought 60 acres from the Ole Ntutu family through a cooperative society,” said Ms Keter on Friday as she packed her belongings to leave the forest land on which she has lived for more than 10 years.
The forest is an important biodiversity and water catchment hotspot and a source of 12 rivers. The other hot spots for destruction include South East Mau, Olposimoru forest block among others.
Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) senior warden and the head of the joint security multi agency team, Dickson Ritan said the restoration exercise was on course.
“This is a continuous exercise and the only difference this time around is a lot of political noise which will not stop the evictions,” said Mr Ritan.
He said the targeted areas in the second phase include Kipchoge and Siera Leone among others.
“The squatters have been expanding their land deep into the forest and this will not be allowed,” he said.
He warned that if the degradation of the Maasai Mau is not urgently addressed, it will lead into the drying of two critical rivers, Uaso Ngiro which drains its water into Lake Natron in Tanzania and Amalo tributary which drains its water into the Mara river.
“We stand to lose a lot in terms of Mara ecosystem where we have Maasai Mara and wildlife, the people downstream will also suffer,” he added.
Uaso Nyiro river, he noted, supports thousands of people living around Ololunga and Uaso Nyiro centres in Narok County.
“It is a constitutional requirement the water tower must be protected and this is why we are urging those who have encroached the forest land to start moving out,” said Mr Ritan.
At least 500 families have moved out of the Siera Leone area and another 100 families have vacated the Kitoben area.
“We hope those who are still in the forest will move out within the stipulated window period, we don’t want to use force,” he said.
He assured the affected families that their crops will be allowed to mature.
“We are not planning to destroy any crops, we won’t allow those who destroy the Mau ecosystem in the guise of tending their crops,” said Mr Ritan.
He urged the politicians not to politicise the restoration of Maasai Mau. “Mau ecosystem is not serving one community. It is serving millions of people beyond our borders,” he added.
He faulted the politicians for failing to put in place laws to manage the current scenario.
“Politicians should not make noise when action is being taken to restore the water tower. The noise will not restore Mau Complex,” said Mr Ritan.
He emphasised the importance of the tower as the key source of water for Narok County.