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Rights body seeks aid for Mau families

Sunday November 15 2009

Seeking divine help on the burden that weighs heavily on their shoulders  regarding their future, settlers in South Western Mau who are camping on the roadside at Kapkembo in Kuresoi, say a prayer before a meeting on Friday. Photo/JOSEPH KIHERI

Seeking divine help on the burden that weighs heavily on their shoulders regarding their future, settlers in South Western Mau who are camping on the roadside at Kapkembo in Kuresoi, say a prayer before a meeting on Friday. Photo/JOSEPH KIHERI 

By WANJIRU MACHARIA

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights Sunday asked the government and other agencies to urgently provide humanitarian aid to hundreds of families who have left South Western Mau.

KNCHR commissioner, Dr Samuel Tororei said families, among them days-old children and elderly people were staying out in the cold on roadsides and open fields after they voluntarily left the forest.

“I saw a two-day old baby who is staying in makeshifts built with bamboo straws and will without beddings or food at Tachasis camp in Kuresoi district and that is a very desperate situation,” he said.

Dr Tororei said the toddler was among 480 people who were treated for cold related ailment by a team of medics from KNCHR.

He noted that the area was very cold and appealed to the government, well wishers, corporate organisations and churches to provide humanitarian aid to the settlers.

Speaking after touring several camps among them Tachasis, Kiptagich, Kurmanya and Kapkembu, Dr Tororei said the government should address the plight of the settlers since they were its responsibility as well.

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“As much as we love the forest and are supporting its conservation, we should love the people too and care for their welfare,” he said.

The commissioner said hundreds of primary school-going children in the affected areas had since dropped out because they left the forest with their parents.

Dr Tororei said nine primary schools namely Tachasis, Langam, Portet, Sigtet, Koilonget, Tilalwet, Kipsungut, Kiptergerte and Chesegir were closed abruptly after families started moving out of the forest last week.

He said the whereabouts of teachers were not known since they also scattered when illegal settlers started trooping out of the forest last Monday following the expiry of a 14-day eviction notice issued by Kenya Forestry Service.

Meanwhile, local leaders have criticised the government for allegedly creating  a humanitarian crisis by evicting the settlers in South Western Mau Forest reserve without compensation or alternative settlements.

On Sunday, Kanu secretary general Nick Salat and former health minister Paul Sang accused President Mwai Kibaki and Prime minister Raila Odinga for allegedly going  against the agreement they had reached with politicians from  Rift valley province on the Mau issue and where  it had been resolved that the settlers  be compensated before the evictions.

They stated that it was sad that the government had plunged the Mau settlers into squalid living conditions and reduced them  to paupers for reasons that were not of their making.

Speaking during a fundraiser in aid of Mulot dispensary in Bomet district, the Kanu officials stated that it was wrong for the President  and the premier allegedly play “double standards “ on the matter and  accuse leaders from the region whenever they defended the rights of  of their people.

“If the government was able to purchase land and resettle the IDPs, what is  wrong with it buying land and resettling the Mau settlers?”Mr Sang queried.

Mr Odinga, the Kanu secretary general pointed out, is on record  during his  presidential campaign trails in the year 2005 draft constitution referendum promising the settlers that if elected to the top seat, he would ensure that they would  not be evicted from their legally acquired farms in the Mau complex.

He regretted that the Prime Minister, in a bid to seek recognition from the donor agencies, was allegedly in the forefront agitating for the evictions of “our people.”

Mr Salat likened the PM to a friend who  gives his colleague “ honey  on one hand  and poison on the other”.

The leaders lauded retired President  Daniel arap Moi's  regime, saying during his reign as the country’s Head of State no Kenyans were removed from their farms and  made landless.

On  the forthcoming party elections, Mr Salat assured  party members that the polls would be free and fair and the seats would be contested right from the grassroots to the national level. He said party supporters were free to contest any of the seats.

On the proposed governments in the draft prepared by the Committee of Experts on constitution, the leaders asked the government to tread carefully not to create “chiefdoms” in the well endowed regions at the expense of the less wealthy areas.

Mr Salat stated that to ensure proper governance in the country, he would recommend one centre of power where the President has executive powers.