Security personnel were on Monday mobilised for possible deployment into the Mau forest after the expiry of a two-week notice ordering illegal settlers to leave.
To show that it was serious about getting the settlers out of the forest, the government mobilised a team of security officers for briefing at the Londiani Forest College.
The team comprised rangers from Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and Kenya Wildlife Service, officers from the National Youth Service Unit and policemen from the regular and administration units. They will jointly “provide security” as the settlers move out of the water tower.
According to sources at the briefing, the Mau Coordinating Secretariat, which is led by Mr Hassan Noor Hassan, laid out modalities for the programme which initially targets South-Western Mau Forest Complex, where some 19,000 hectares are earmarked for rehabilitation.
“We were told that our role would be to assist those willing to move out and equally ensure that security was maintained during the entire process of the evictions,” said one of the officers.
Efforts by the Daily Nation to seek a comment from Mr Hassan were unsuccessful as his mobile phone went unanswered despite numerous attempts.
KFS director David Mbugua issued a quit notice to the settlers on October 26. The notice expired on Monday. But residents have stayed put, having adopted a wait-and-see attitude. A request to the settlers to hand in their title deeds have received lukewarm response, with only some 15 having heeded the request so far.
The government has, however, been accused of showing lack of commitment in implementing proposals of the Mau Task Force that called for ejection of settlers and recovery of the land.
Mr Odenda Lumumba of the Kenya Land Alliance (KLA), who was also a member the task force, said the government lacked seriousness to implement the report. becoming cynical … the government is running out of time,” he said.
The KLA coordinator particularly hit out at the Forestry minister, Dr Noah Wekesa, saying he was playing politics with the Mau issue.
Dr Wekesa has maintained that the removal of the settlers will be conducted in a humane manner and that the government will dialogue with those targeted.
Reported by George Sayagie, Noah Cheploen and Simon Siele