The operation to eject illegal squatters in the Mau forest complex will continue despite objections from some leaders, Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko warned.
The CS also warned that force would be used to flush out encroachers if they fail to move out voluntarily. In an interview with the Nation, the CS said it was unfortunate for leaders to politicise the Mau issue despite its significance to the country and the region.
The Mau operation is being implemented by a multi-agency team, which includes the Kenya Forest Service and the Kenya Wildlife Service.
The minister said it was not possible for the government to compensate people who claim to have title deeds to a gazetted forest land.
“How is it possible you acquire a title deed in respect of a forest land which has not been de-gazetted or has not been set apart as trust land? How do you obtain a title deed without going through the legal process? Those titles are null and void and lack legal validity,” said Mr Tobiko.
Narok County Commissioner George Natembeya has announced that the second phase of evictions which aim at removing 40,000 people from the forest will begin in the coming days.
During the first phase, the government secured about 12,000 hectares of the land by removing 7,082 people and demolishing more than 1,700 temporary structures.
The minister said he was confident that this time, the effort to recover and regenerate the forest would bear fruit.
“The approach this time round unlike in previous occasions is significant. This approach is technical and that is why we are not politicising the process; no one should politicise it,” he said.
According to him, the operation is not about a certain community but how important conservation of the Mau is. “If the Mau issue is not solved now once and for all, it will never be solved,” he said. The CS said the concerned agencies are working out a strategy on how best to remove people in the remaining part of the forest.
Those affected will be allowed to move out voluntarily. “The eviction will be determined on a case to case basis and will be carried out in a humane manner, but if people become stubborn and refuse to get out, and we hope it does not come to this, there will be use of reasonable force,” said Mr Tobiko.