Individuals who encroached on the Maasai Mau forest land face arrest as the Directorate of Criminal Investigations has already forwarded their files to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
Environment CS Keriako Tobiko Tuesday told the National Assembly Committee on Environment that the DPP is reviewing the files before taking action against those involved.
“These individuals committed a crime by purporting to have sold land that doesn’t belong to them. They should be traced and forced to return the money. If they have any land in their names, they should resettle the people they sold land to,” said Mr Tobiko, adding that 14,000 hectares were sold.
The CS described the destruction that has been going on in the Mau for about three decades as ‘an ecological disaster’, adding that the government would not relent in its quest to restore it.
The CS told the committee chaired by Maara MP Kareke Mbiuki that, of the 6,000 people who encroached on the Mau, only 716 have purported titles, 4,439 have sale agreements and letters of allotment, while 2,741 have no documents. Phase two of the evictions target 3,372 households. Out of these, 850 households have already moved out voluntarily.
The CS maintained that the government won’t provide compensation.
“The mere fact that the individuals hold titles signed by a government official doesn’t render an invalid process valid. The government will not compensate individuals who participated in an illegality,” Mr Tobiko said.
However, he said the government would ‘assist those who volunteer information’. “Let them come out and record a statement and provide us with all documents so we can follow up on those who duped them,” Mr Tobiko said.
The CS maintained that the evictions would continue, despite protests from a section of politicians, saying those being evicted come from across the political divide and tribes.
“Mau is not a matter between the Kalenjins and the Maasai. This is a national issue, which must be protected to serve even future generations. The exercise is unstoppable, there is no going back,” Mr Tobiko said.
The country loses Sh3.5 billion annually as a result of the destruction of Mau, he added. The session later degenerated into a shouting match as MPs told the CS that he has no powers to invalidate titles that were genuinely issued by the government.
“There is a process in court for invalidating titles issued by the government, the CS cannot do that,” said Kipkelion West MP Hillary Koskei.
“For the CS to get it on Mau, he must use a consultative approach. Due to government negligence, the people must be compensated,” he added.
Mr Mbiuki asked the CS why he was only targeting the common man in the evictions while sparing the rich.
The impending arrests come amid mounting pressure on the DDP to arrest prominent people involved in the encroachment.
Among those pushing for the arrests are MPs Joseph Tonui (Kuresoi South), Samuel Arama (Nakuru Town West), the Rift Valley Council of Elders and the Ogiek Council of Elders.
The Rift Valley leaders and civil society groups yesterday claimed that the DPP was dragging his feet in dealing with individuals who sold forest land to unsuspecting people.