The debate on the restoration of the Mau Forest complex has resurfaced.
This follows the government’s announcement of a new round of evictions of encroachers on the forest that has become a perennial theatre of conflict.
From past experience, a more rational approach is paramount to secure a lasting solution to a matter that has dragged on for far too long.
At the weekend, Rift Valley leaders convened a meeting in Nakuru and made several suggestions.
One, they asked for postponement of the eviction to allow for relocation of those settled in the forest. Two, they rooted for sobriety in handling the matter, calling for dialogue and consensus to avert violence.
Three, they argued against politicising the exercise as happened in the past. Although the leaders have raised some valid issues, relocation is inevitable.
There is never an appropriate time to evict the illegal occupants; they should never have gone in there in the first place.
However, the leaders have a poignant statement that the eviction should be humane. It should not be done in a manner that creates a humanitarian crisis.
Some of the settlers were victims of political trickery having been misled to occupy forest land, hence should not be subjected to further misery.
Concomitant to this, the government must provide alternatives to the people so that they can pick up and continue with their lives.
The contestation over Mau is unfortunate. It is a consequence of reckless politicians who hoodwinked people into settling on government land.
Worse, some of the settlers were even given titles, raising questions about land management.
Even so, it is noteworthy that the Rift Valley leaders have dropped the belligerence witnessed in the past when the evictions were fiercely opposed.
This is a realisation that the erstwhile aggression cannot help. Restoring the forest is an imperative.
Destruction of Mau Forest has precipitated unprecedented risks that the country can no longer ignore. Every effort must be made to avert further environmental dereliction.
Mau is the greatest water tower that serves the entire East and Central Africa region. But its deprecation has occasioned massive environmental losses.
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Many rivers flowing from the Mau have dried up as the forest is razed due to human invasion.
Animals and the entire ecosystem have been severely affected. This generation stands accused if the destruction is allowed to continue.
As we have argued before, the renewal of the Mau Forest complex requires political goodwill.
This is why we are encouraged when the local politicians seek dialogue rather than confrontation.
But the eviction must go on as planned. Anyone who would want to instigate violence to forestall the regeneration of the forest must be dealt with. Also, the matter should not be politicised.