Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko has vowed that the government will not relent in its quest to repossess encroached public forest land.
Speaking in Maparasha, Kajiado Central during the Olng’esherr ceremony (a rite of passage where morans graduate to become elders) on Sunday, Tobiko warned those living in gazetted forests to move out before they are forcefully evicted.
He emphasized that any person who would encroach on any gazetted forest would be punished according to the law, regardless of their political or ethnical background and that he would not be swayed by those trying to politicize the evictions.
“We will not relent in reclaiming all grabbed forest lands in the country. I want to urge all those who have encroached the forests to move out before they are evicted forcefully,” he said.
The CS expressed the need of protecting the environment adding that forests attract rainfall and increase water levels in the rivers.
He attributed the rising water levels in major lakes and rivers in the country to reclamation of water catchment areas.
“We have seen lakes and rivers bursting their banks. This is as a result of reclaiming part of Mau forest. The annual rainfall in those areas has resumed with rivers like Amalo and Mara which had dried up now bursting their banks,” said the CS.
He revealed that the progress made in reclamation of Kirisia forest in Samburu County is already evident with daily rainfall being encountered in the area.
Last year, over 4, 000 people who had illegally settled at Kirisia forest voluntarily vacated the forest bolstering the government’s efforts in increasing tree cover to over 10 per cent by 2020.
Tobiko called on the graduating morans to be at the forefront in conserving the environment by planting at least one tree each in effort to increase the country’s forest cover.
He promised to donate 15,000 tree seedlings equivalent to the number of the graduands before the climax of the occasion.
Other leaders present during the event included Devolution PS Charles Sunkuli, NEMA Board Chairman John Konchellah, and former Nairobi County Assembly Speaker Alex Magelo among others.
Sunkuli urged the County Government to set aside funds and develop policies to safeguard the Maasai culture adding that the culture remained endangered with unscrupulous individuals exploiting it for monetary gains.
“I would like to urge Narok, Kajiado, Samburu and Laikipia counties to set aside Sh50 M in their annual budgets for the preservation of the Maasai cultures. Cultural activities like the Olng’esherr are historical and must be preserved,” said Sunkuli.
The Olng’esherr is a meat-eating ceremony that marks the end of moranism and the beginning of eldership. The historic event among the Maa community occurs once in every 15 years and will see over 15,000 men graduate from morans to elders.
By Rop Janet