The Ogiek community will go back to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights this week over the ongoing Maasai Mau Forest evictions. The evictions started seven days ago and are being carried out by officers from the Kenya Forest Service, Administration Police and Kenya Wildlife Service.
Speaking in Nakuru yesterday, the community's Council of Elders chairman, Mr Joseph Towett, said the evictions violate the court’s judgment issued last year. He said the court directed the Kenya government to compensate the people affected in previous evictions.
“The ongoing evictions targeting members of various communities, including the Ogiek, are a violation of the judgment issued by the Arusha-based court. We will go back to court for review of the judgment and possibly introduce a fresh suit,” said Mr Towett.
After more than five years of litigation, the court ruled in May 2017 that the Kenya government had violated the rights and freedoms of the Ogiek by driving them out of their ancestral land nearly a decade ago.
It told the Kenya government “to take all appropriate measures within a reasonable time-frame to remedy all the violations established” and inform it of the progress within six months. The court told the Ogiek to file their requests for reparations within two months.
London-based lawyer Lucy Claridge represented the Ogiek.
“Instead of implementing the judgment, the government is evicting innocent people. As much as we support conservation, let us not politicise this matter,” said Mr Towett.
The evictions have so far affected 13 shopping centers, 772 houses, over 3,000 livestock and 8,860 people.
By Sunday evictions had been conducted in Nkoben, Kosia, Kass FM, Msaita, Arorwet with most of the evictees camping at Arorwet trading centre.
At least 12,000 illegal settlers living on 146,000 hectares of forest land are being targeted in the eviction that started last week.
A multi-agency team of Kenya Forest Service, Administration Police and Kenya Wildlife Service is involved in the operation.
Narok County Commissioner George Natembeya has maintained that the ‘squatters’ have homes and land elsewhere.
On Sunday he said they invaded the forest to burn charcoal and graze their animals.
Meanwhile Narok North Member of Parliament Moitalel Ole Kenta and his Bomet Central counterpart Ronald Tonui have differed over the ongoing evictions
Mr Tonui termed the decision harassment of citizens, saying those living in the forest were genuinely settled there by the government.
He condemned the ongoing evictions terming it inhuman and uncalled for.
Speaking Saturday when he visited families camping at Kitoben trading centre at the edges of the forest in Narok South Sub-County, Mr Tonui faulted the government for flushing out the hapless people from their homes.
Mr Tonui wants the state to shelve the plans of evicting squatters from Mau Forest because of the chilly weather.
He appealed to President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto to intervene and give the settlers alternative land instead.
"The weather is unfavourable for eviction. It is raining, people’s lives are being endangered,” said Mr Tonui.
However, Narok North counterpart Mr Kenta insisted the evictions must continue if the future of Kenya's largest water tower is to be guaranteed.
Mr Kenta dismissed Mr Tonui concerns, saying most of the land beneficiaries were powerful people in the previous government, who also allocated or sold the land to their supporters.
According to the MP ,more than five million people depend on Mau ecosystem for their the well-being.
"This MP who went to Mau should keep off Narok County. In Narok we have leaders, he should concentrate on matters affecting people of Bomet,” said Mr Kenta.
The eviction is aimed at halting further degradation of the forest and halt activities that hamper conservation of the vital water tower.
The forest has been devastated despite a national logging moratorium.
The Mau complex straddles several counties and is Kenya’s biggest forest and is the catchment source for Lake Victoria and the White Nile.
It covers 400,000hectares and is the biggest single block of forest in East Africa.
It is also the source of numerous rivers, which carry Mau’s water throughout Western Kenya from Lake Turkana in the North to Lake Natron in the South.