How Moi allies acquired land meant for Ogiek - Daily Nation

How Moi allies acquired land meant for Ogiek

Saturday December 5 2009

  Ogiek tribes children stand near tree stamp in Mauche settlement scheme of Mau Forest Complex in the Rift Valley, about 200 km (127 miles) to the south-west of Kenya's capital Nairobi, July 29, 2009. REUTERS

Ogiek tribes children stand near tree stamp in Mauche settlement scheme of Mau Forest Complex in the Rift Valley, about 200 km (127 miles) to the south-west of Kenya's capital Nairobi, July 29, 2009. REUTERS 

By DAVID OKWEMBAH

Thirty seven prominent people around former President Daniel arap Moi were illegally allocated land excised from the Mau Complex to settle Ogiek community members and victims of the 1992 ethnic clashes.

Now some of the beneficiaries risk being dragged to court for their involvement in the irregular allocation of forest land or for contravening government policy on settlement schemes, according to a Cabinet report on the matter.

The 37 include two former comptrollers of State House, a former permanent secretary, a provincial commissioner, a one-time head of the presidential escort and one of Mr Moi’s sons.

The area is question is part of the land the government plans to reclaim in the next phase of the Mau Forest repossessions. This includes Kiptagich Tea Factory that is closely associated with Mr Moi and which stands on more than 950 hectares.

Some of those illegally allocated Mau land are still in the civil service or hold public office. They include nominated MP Musa Sirma (ODM) and the director of the Regional Centre for Small Arms, Francis Sang.

Businesses associated with Mr Moi or his associates who were also allocated huge chunks of land in the scheme stood to benefit, according to the report.

While the Ogiek were entitled to just two hectares (or five acres) each of the land hived off to settle them, the retired president’s aides managed to allocate themselves 20 hectares (about 50 acres) each.

According to documents in the possession of the Sunday Nation, the forest land excision carried out in 2001 was aimed at settling members of the Ogiek community scattered across southwestern the Mau Forest Reserve as well as ethnic clash victims.

According to records provided by Ogiek leaders, 653 of them were to be settled in Kiptagich extension. But corruption in the allocations began when registers were being compiled in what is known as the “Blue Book” after it was reported that a number of names had been inserted without the consent of the Ogiek clan elders.

Instead of the Ogiek being given an official letter of offer from the director of land adjudication and settlement, they were given a “card” of allocation jointly signed by the District Commissioner and the provincial forest officer. Despite these anomalies, the Ogiek moved to the Kiptagich Extension Settlement Scheme pending the issuing of title deeds.

While surveying and demarcation started immediately, then newly appointed Nakuru DC John Litunda issued a 14-day quit notice to all the Ogiek, reportedly at the request of the then permanent secretary for Internal Security Zakayo Cheruiyot.

Most of the 653 Ogiek families that had settled in Kiptagich Extension Settlement Scheme were evicted, paving the way for the fresh allocation to prominent civil servants and Moi’ allies.

Mr Cheruiyot, now MP for Kuresoi, benefited from the allocation as well as did the current MP for Baringo Central Sammy Mwaita. The Baringo MP served the former president as the Rift Valley provincial land adjudication officer before he was promoted to commissioner of lands.

The government policy on settlement schemes entitles every Kenyan identified asm being in need of land to a maximum five acres.

The report on the reclamation of the Mau Forest recommends that allocation of more than five acres be revoked without compensation. It says all title deeds given to companies be revoked without compensation. But it recommends that third party purchasers be compensated for value.

The first group to be evicted from the forest was illegal squatters in southwestern Mau who do not have documents to support their occupation.

They are camping in nine transitional camps on the edge of the forest where an estimated 3,000 had been registered by last week.