It is encouraging that, despite attempts at politicising the matter, 2,200 of 3,372 families have voluntarily left the Maasai Mau Forest in the second phase of evictions to enable the restoration of this major water tower. The encroachment on the complex has caused destruction of the source of water for several rivers on which many people downstream rely. This water tower is critical to East Africa and beyond. Kenya and Tanzania share the Mara River, famed for the tourist-pulling wildebeest migration. This catchment also contributes to the water that flows into River Nile, which has, for generations, sustained life in Egypt.
At least 10,000 people, including 8,000 schoolchildren, among them over 1,000 national examination candidates, are affected by the current evictions. During the first round in July last year, 7,700 people were ejected and 12,000 acres reclaimed.
As Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko has pointed out, while the fight for the Mau may be seen to benefit the current generation, the impact of its continued destruction will still be felt 50 years from today. And we fully agree with him that the rights of individuals must be balanced against those of the public and future generations. It has been a delicate task getting people to leave what they have called home for a long time. But it is being done as humanely as possible and they must get out since the invasion of the forest has had serious ramifications.
Narok County authorities have confirmed that 17 families are seeking redress for giving up land that they bought from some unscrupulous dealers. The aggrieved families have lodged their sale agreements with the county officials, hoping that justice will be done, even as they seek alternative land on which to resettle.
Perpetrators of the illicit sale of forest land must be punished.