GAITHO: Eviction of illegal settlers from forests has to include ‘big fish’ - Daily Nation

Eviction of illegal settlers from forests has to include ‘big fish’

Monday July 30 2018

Maasai Mau Forest

Families leave Kosia, Septonok and Nkoben areas of the Mau Forest on July 8, 2018. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Land-grabbing politicians have long perfected the art of sheltering behind hapless peasants as they carry out their nefarious activities.

You can be sure that any time forests, game reserves and other public lands are opened up to ostensibly settle the “landless”, the genuinely needy who might each get a few miserable acres just provide cover for a few filthy-rich leaders who appropriate for themselves tens of thousands of acres.

Yet when time comes to reclaim such lands, the poor peasants accused of illegal encroachment will be brutally evicted but you can be sure that the mighty and powerful will be spared on the spurious grounds that they have invested heavily and created employment.

That is the story of the endless cycles of settlement and evictions in the Mau Forest Complex. Right now, peasants who were encouraged by politicians to encroach on the protected forest that is one of the East Africa’s most important water towers are being rightfully ejected; but no one is talking about similarly kicking out powerful political families that have converted huge tracts of the forest to private tea estates.


The politicians who are inciting the encroachers to defy the eviction orders are just using the peasants for their own selfish ends.

They are seeking to gain popularity by posing as the champions of the poor and defenders of their community but not disclosing that they are, in reality, protecting the big forest invaders.

If we are serious about reclaiming the Mau and restoring it to a pristine state, we must cease the hypocrisy and discrimination. All invaders, not only the poor, must be kicked out.

The time has also come to rid ourselves of the notion that it is the government’s duty to dish out free land to everyone who claims to be in need.

At Independence and a few years thereafter, it was, indeed, an obligation of the government to carry out massive land redistribution and settlement policies.

The war for freedom was essentially about land; so, it behoved the new independent government to transfer land from colonial settlers to the rightful owners.


The programme, admittedly, was not managed very judiciously. Too many insanely large tracts still remained in the hands of settlers and, in too many cases, it was just about transferring ownership from a white to a black exploiter.

Fifty years after Independence, however, we cannot still be dishing out land. Today, we see county governments in Murang’a, Kericho, Kajiado, Laikipia, Kiambu and elsewhere proposing to seize large tracts of land from individuals and corporations, supposedly for redistribution to the landless.

You can be sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west that the poor are, again, being used as cover for greedy politicians eyeing the land for themselves.

Much of the land being coveted is not idle but under serious commercial activity in both agriculture and manufacturing. If seized and cut up into tiny parcels for human settlement, the end result will be destruction of the economic output, reduction of the tax base and, obviously, job losses.


Therefore, the people will be the actual losers as the politicians who grab huge chunks for themselves smile all the way to the bank.

If the issue is that the owners are beneficiaries of unjust colonial land grabs, a better solution would be for the county governments to renegotiate the leases so that the land values are taken as public investment in the entities. That way, the public owns a stake in the entity and will be a beneficiary of any dividends therefrom realised.

What will not work is county governments kicking out the corporations and taking over the farms or factories, for we know that they are ill-equipped to manage any enterprise, whether it be a roadside kiosk or a gigantic agricultural estate.

* * *

An increasing number of motorists are breaking the law in broad daylight as officers of both the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) and the Traffic Police look the other way.


The biggest culprits are matatu operators, boda boda motorcycle taxi riders and even private motorists, mostly of the Toyota Probox tribe.

I am referring to those extremely bright LED lights they are fixing on their contraptions. Those lights are not only illegal but outright dangerous because, even in broad daylight, they are bright enough to blind approaching motorists and will surely be responsible for increasing fatalities on our roads.

It is true that many modern vehicles come already fitted with LED lights for daylight running but the ones being fitted by roadside mechanics are probably a thousand times brighter than what is legal.

Over to you @ntsa_kenya, Inspector-General @JBoinnet and @NPSOfficial_KE.

[email protected] Twitter: @MachariaGaitho