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Second phase of Mau evictions to kick off soon

Environment and Forestry Cabinet Secretary (CS) Keriako Tobiko has said the second phase of Mau forest restoration will not be negotiable.
Speaking during a meeting with various stakeholders in the Narok County Commissioner`s office Friday, Tobiko clarified that the process would not be about eviction but restoration as the land belonged to the State.
He claimed that the prolonged disputes over the restoration of the Mau water tower had nothing to do with the law but politicisation of the entire process.
During the meeting, Tobiko announced that the State had cancelled over 1,200 title deeds in Mau forest which were acquired through unscrupulous channels.
“The Mau forest disputes that have been on going have been political and nothing to do with the law being flouted,” Tobiko said.
He further reiterated that Mau forest is not about tribes and pledged that the restoration process would go on as planned by the relevant authorities.
“We do not care which tribe you come from or political affiliation you have, whether tangatanga or kieleweke restoration is now or never,” he said.
Phase one of the forest restoration that saw 10,000 illegal settlers evicted was centered in Reiya Group Ranch while the second phase has Nkoben, Ilmotiok and Ololunga on the radar. The others are Enokishomi,Enoosokon,Nkaroni and Sisian.
Rift Valley Regional Commissioner George Natembeya who was present hinted that they had already deployed sufficient personnel on the ground to carry out the process.
“We are ready for the second phase of the restoration. We have deployed sufficient personnel on the ground to carry out the activity,” he said.
The water tower restoration is estimated to affect over 10,000 people including an alleged 8,000 school going children and over 1,000 candidates set to sit their national exams in 2019.
Narok County Commissioner Samuel Kimiti urged residents to preserve forests and warned that those found burning charcoal in the forest will face the full force of the law.
“Forests belong to the National Government and no day shall we allow a few individuals to benefit at the expense of the entire nation,” he further added.
The CS further said that there was need to protect the environment that was under threat from human infestation citing that the government was about to launch massive tree planting campaigns across the country.
The campaigns will involve young people especially in secondary and primary schools, colleges and universities that will be required to plant at least 10 per cent of the total planned number.
To this end, the government plans to plant 1.8 billion trees around the country by 2020 to rehabilitate degraded environment and achieve the 10 per cent forest cover and part of the plan is to use school children and students to plant trees.
During the first phase of the eviction in July 2018, about 7,700 people were evicted from the forest land which saw over 12,000 acres of the forest reclaimed.
The eviction elicited political posturing with leaders from the Maa and Kalenjin communities engaging in bitter exchange.
Maa leaders wanted the evictions to go on while the Kalenjin leaders wanted it stopped terming it illegal and inhuman.
The Mau is the largest water tower in the country supporting millions of human life and wildlife in Kenya and beyond.
By Mabel Keya-Shikuku

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