On Mau evictions, shoe is on other foot for Uhuru - Daily Nation

Mau evictions fiasco returns to haunt Uhuru, Ruto

Saturday August 4 2018

Maasai Mau

A joint security enforcement team destroys a structure in Maasai Mau forest on July 8, 2018 during ongoing evictions. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By VITALIS KIMUTAI
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When President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto, then Kanu stalwarts, toured Narok South in 2005 to console families evicted from their farms in Maasai Mau, little did they know that one day the shoe will be on the other foot.

President Kenyatta, then serving as Kanu chairman, with Mr Ruto as the secretary-general, were pricked to the core by assertions by then Lands minister in President Mwai Kibaki’s Narc administration, Mr Amos Kimunya, that title deeds held by the settlers were “mere pieces of paper”.

The leaders drove to Sogoo trading centre at the height of the evictions and told the evictees to ignore Mr Kimunya’s directive to vacate their land.

“Do not be duped into surrendering the title deeds to the government. Instead, keep them safe until we ascend to power in a few years then we sort the matter once and for all,” President Kenyatta told hundreds of families who were camping in the area.

“This government (Narc) does not respect the rule of law. It is unfortunate schools have been closed with children denied their universal right to education. It a tragedy Kenya is being ranked with failed States.”

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Mr Ruto said: " The sanctity of title deeds must be respected and it should be known to the world that the people have illegally been evicted from their private farms by the government in the pretext that the ruling elite is keen on conserving the environment.”

They were in the company of former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto (then Chepalungu MP), former Narok Senator Stephen Ntutu (then Narok South MP), Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Moses Cheboi, Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter (then Belgut MP) and former MPs Henry Koskei, Musa Sirma, Nick Salat, Joseph Korir, David Koros, Paul Sang, Anthony Kimetto, David Lagat, Franklin Bett and Sammy Koech, among others.

The two leaders donated foodstuffs and clothing to the affected families camping at Sogoo and demanded the eviction be halted.

EDUCATION

Some 13 years later, the shoe is on the other foot and the tune over the Mau eviction has since changed as the Jubilee administration kicks out families from the forest.

A total of 15 schools have been shut following the evictions.

Bomet Governor Joyce Laboso and his Narok counterpart Samuel Tunai have called on President Kenyatta to keep his word on the matter.

Mr Tunai and Dr Laboso appealed to members of the Kalenjin and Maasai communities to shun leaders out to divide and set them against each other over the Mau conservation issue.

The affected schools, now like 13 years ago, are Kipchoge, Olaba, Masaita, Kitoben, Ororwet, Kirobon, Kabarak, Koitabai, Noosagami, Chemogoi, Nyamira, Tebeswet, Ndianit, Sebetet, Silver Star and Fountain academies.

HOUSES BURNED

Then Education Minister George Saitoti announced at the height of eviction that the government had released Sh4.9 million to supplement free education to 1,449 pupils whose parents were displaced in the operation.

Affected villages then were Sierra Leone, Kapkunia, Nosagami, Chebitet, Kamungei, Kitoben, Lesuswa, Kipchoge, Lelechwet and Koitabai among others.

The eviction has been characterised by burning of houses by multiagency security officers including those from the Kenya Forest Service, Kenya Wildlife Service, Administration police and Narok County security enforcement officers deployed to the area.

Both Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto have been silent over the ongoing eviction, leaving their foot soldiers in a bitter exchange of words.

“President Kenyatta assured the people in the run-up to the last general election that they would not be evicted from their farms; that national government would rollout infrastructural facilities including roads and schools. We should be told what changed after the election,” Melelo MCA Philemon Aruasa said.

POLITICIANS DIVIDED

Mr Kenyatta made the remarks on July 11 last year while launching the upgrading to bitumen standard and maintenance of Ololulunga- Olemekenyu road in Narok South where eviction is ongoing.

Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen and Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot both of who are close allies of the Deputy President have taken on the government over the eviction while Jubilee Secretary-General Raphael Tuju has told off the leaders.

Mr Sigey Bett, the lawyer acting for 9,000 evictees, is demanding that the government halts the operations and allow the people back to their farms or start a comprehensive and acceptable compensation programme.

“Use of force against unarmed civil population has invoked one of the serious and heinous crimes of international law, crime against humanity; the same as provided in the Rome Statutes and domesticated as Municipal Law in this country in an Act of Parliament called International Crimes Act,” Mr Bett said.

ELECTIONS

Rift Valley leaders have demanded that the President keep his word on the matter and stop eviction as the people are suffering.

Bomet Governor Joyce Laboso, his Narok counterpart Samwel Tunai, his deputy Chepkirui Aruasa and her Bomet counterpart are the latest to add their voice to the issue.

Dr Laboso said: “Our people have unfortunately become springboards for leaders seeking positions in national election.

"Both national and local leaders came here seeking for votes and assure the people they would not be evicted, only to turn against them once they are in office.

“For how long will the people suffer after each election cycle by being uprooted from their legally acquired farms? This cannot be allowed to continue. We are using these as political pawns. It must stop."

Mr Tunai and Dr Laboso appealed to members of the Kalenjin and Maasai communities to shun leaders out to divide and set them against each other over the Mau conservation issue.

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