Prime Minister Raila Odinga has tabled in parliament a list of those who acquired land in the Mau based on their well-connectedness with the government. Top of the list are those closely associated with former president Moi – including his son and former Baringo Central MP Gideon. The task force on the Mau issued a report that claimed that 80% of the titles to the land in Mau were issued to undeserving people.
I like this dose of transparency from the Prime Minister (Although for good practice he should have made the list public as soon as he got it in order to allow for a more mature progression of the eviction debate). My hope now is that Kenyans will realise exactly what the interests of those against the government directive to conserve the forest are. Indeed if I had it my way, the millionaires who unlawfully acquired public land should be made to pay a fine.
The popular consensus seems to be that the government should compensate the regular “wananchi” who have titles and who unknowingly legally bought illegally acquired land. But the “wenyenchi” who grabbed public land should not be given a cent. Shame on them.
And on a different note, kudos to the Kenya Revenue Authority. I was surprised that I was able to get my pin number online. The first time I tried getting one I had to wait in line at Times Tower and left because the line did not move for the more than 45 minutes that I was there. My only problem now is that I can’t seem to be able to print my pin number certificate. Anyone with a clue?
Leaders are meant to lead – to set the agenda and make people believe that what is good for them is exactly what they need. On this count, Agriculture minister William Ruto has failed as a leader. On the issue of Mau Forest, he is increasingly sounding like a mad populist out to gain political mileage at the expense of millions of Kenyans – including those that he is purportedly protecting.
That deforestation in the Mau is causing the drying up of vital water sources – 12 rivers included – is no longer contested, not even by Mr. Ruto himself. I therefore do not understand why he is still against the eviction of those who illegally acquired land in the forest. The government has already agreed to compensate small holders (with title deeds) who were cheated into buying land in the forest. But wealthy Kenyans who acquired land in the Mau due to their connections to the Moi Administration should not be given a cent. In any case they should be investigated.
I say it is time that Mr. Ruto acted as a leader and made the case to his constituents that saving the Mau is in their best interest. This is the least he can do if he really aspires to be seen as a respectable national leader rather than an over-glorified tribal chief.
Last week I took a whirlwind tour of the Rift Valley province of Kenya. For two days I accompanied a program office from the NGO that I am working with this summer to Eldoret, Burnt Forest and Timboroa. The purpose of the visit was to assess the progress of peace initiatives in the area – necessitated by the madness of last year’s post-election violence. The evidence on the ground was encouraging. Exclusive ethic zones no longer exist and free movement of people and goods is now possible. That said, tensions still exist as evidenced by the heavy police presence in the region – every few hundred metres on the Eldoret-Timboroa road there are brand new police camps.
Especially risky are the ongoing debates over the prosecution of the masterminds of ethnic violence at the Hague and the resettlement of those currently living in Mau Forest. Given that certain ethnic chiefs of the two quarreling communities are most certainly on the Waki list, some people on the ground favor a local truth and reconciliation commission which, they presume, would be less harsh on the masterminds of violence. But those whose houses were burnt or who lost relatives want real justice and are advocating for the Hague option.
Also tricky is the Mau resettlement debate. Word on the ground is that if certain people are evicted from Mau without compensation, then it will be justified to evict other people who settled in the Rift Valley decades ago outside of their “ethnic homelands.” Knowing how passionate some of those in these areas are, it makes me cringe with fear every time I hear politicians carelessly comment about the impending eviction of those who (il)legally settled in Mau Forest.
The other leg of my journey took me to Nakuru. Driving around Kabarak, visiting Lord Egerton’s Castle, hanging out at Egerton University’s serene botanical garden and dining at Kunste were all topped by the ride back to Nairobi. Next time you are coming back to Nairobi from Nakuru take the Naivasha-Mai Mahiu road. The view of the escarpment on this road is like none other. And Longonot will be right there too, with the baboons, warthogs and other wildlife.
Many thanks to my very good friend, a native of Njoro, who made the Nakuru trip the success that it was.