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23, 000 ha of Maasai Mau Forest encroached

State officers mandated to protect the Maasai Mau forest have been put on notice after it emerged that about 23, 000 hectares of the Maasai Mau forest in Narok County are being invaded by illegal encroachers.

Rift Valley Region Commissioner Dr. Abdi Hassan accused the officers of collaborating with the encroachers who cut down trees under their watch to open up farming land, thus threatening the existence of the mega water catchment land.

“The key thing that has contributed to the destruction of the forest land is the laziness, corruption, and lack of accountability in the civil service. Already, we have begun investigations so that we can bring to book all civil servants who did not play their role well, leading to the destruction of the forest,” he said.

The encroached land, he said, is half of the forest land, as the total forest area is 46, 000 hectares.

The RC, who spoke to journalists after touring parts of the forest land and holding a meeting with top security officers from Narok and Nakuru counties, cited the Schawan and Nkaretta areas in Narok North Sub County as the most affected areas.

Among the state agencies mandated to protect the forest are the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Kenya Forest Service (KFS), County Rangers, Kenya Water Towers, and the office of the county commissioner.

He directed all those farming on the forest land to vacate the forest with immediate effect, failure to which they will be arrested and charged in court.

“I am shocked because no wild animals can be seen in the forest land because of the human activities inside there. We will not condone this bad habit. The human activities inside the forest land should end forthwith,” he said.

Dr. Hassan reiterated that the Kenya Kwanza government will resolve the issue surrounding the Mau Forest once and for all, warning politicians against politicising the natural resource that is a source of livelihood for many people.

“I will personally preside over the evictions in the Mau Forest. This is not the government that only talks but also takes action. We will ensure that we secure, recover, and restore the Mau forest immediately,” he said.

The Ogiek community that lives in the forest land was also warned against engaging in businesses that destroy the forest, failure to which they risk being thrown out of the forest.

In the year 2018–2019, the government evicted over 35,000 people from the forest land in the Sierra Leone and Nkoben areas of Narok South Sub County.

In its efforts to protect the forest land, the government, through Kenya Water Towers, put up a 30-kilometre electric fence in the Nkoben and Sierra Leone parts of the forest.

Among those present were Nakuru County Commissioner Gilbert Kitiyo, Narok County Commissioner Isaac Masinde, and a host of County Executive Committee members.

By Ann Salaton

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