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Narok court throws out Mau Forest petition

The Mau Forest evictees have suffered a major setback after a three-judge bench sitting at the Narok Environment and Land Court (ELC) dismissed their petition.

The over 40,000 evictees had moved to court to sue state over what they termed as illegal and forceful evictions from their farms in the Mau Forest in 2018 and 2019.

This led to retired Chief Justice David Maraga to appoint three Environment and Land Court (ELC) judges Justice Mohammed Kullow, Justice John Mutungi and Justice George Ong`ondo to determine the case.

They had named the Minister for Forestry, Environment and Natural Resources, Attorney General and the Minister for Interior as respondents in the case.

The judges revoked the title deeds created after the ballooning of five group ranches; Enoosokon, Enkaroni, Enoosaen, Enekishomi and Sisiyian saying they were null and void as the subdividing comprised part of the Maasai Mau forest.

The court declared the sub division of the five group ranches was irregular, unlawful, null and void as the initial land was 3, 000 hectares but the group ranches extended to the forest land in their favour to 14, 000 hectares.

“The land titles created following the sub division of the five group ranches were obtained illegally, unlawfully and unprocedural; and constitutes unlawful encroachment. They are therefore nullified, cancelled and revoked,” said Judge Mutungi, who read the judgement.

The court directed any person still living in the forest land to vacate with immediate effect giving an ultimatum of 90 days failure to which an order of eviction will be issued.

The county government was ordered to carry out a ground assessment of the forest and erect beacons designating the extent of the forest having specific regards of the initial acreage of the five group ranches.

Once the Maasai Mau forest boundaries is established, the respondents and county government shall erect a fence and permanent feature around the forest within 24 months which will be maintained by the Kenya Forest Service (KFS).

The court also directed the respondent to show the specific acreage of the five group ranches within a period of 12 months to ensure the forest is protected.

Senior counsel Kimutai Bosek who led the team of counsels appearing for the evictees expressed dissatisfaction with the ruling and vowed to appeal the case in Court of Appeal.

However, former Narok County gubernatorial aspirant Moitalel Ole Kenta, who is also a senior counsel expressed contentment with the judgment and called on those who had sold land to the evictees to compensate them.

They wanted the court to declare the eviction exercise as illegal since all the affected persons had genuinely acquired title deeds from the Ministry of Lands.

Furthermore, they wanted the court to compel the state to conduct a fresh survey of the entire Mau Forest so as to verify if indeed any illegal settlers resided in the Mau Complex.

By Ann Salaton

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