The impending second phase exercise by the government on Mau eviction seems to have put Deputy President William Ruto in a catch 22 situation, not knowing whether to support the government’s decision or defend the squatters since they all hail from his stronghold where he enjoys unopposed support, politically.
When Mr. Ruto received a damning report on the extent of illegal logging in the forests in March 2018, he described it as “cheap publicity stunts” and previous campaigns to protect the environment by some people he said were only out to get their photos published “planting two trees in the Mau.”
He made the deriding comments following concerns about what many commentators said was an about-turn on the conservation of the environment and forests.
The DP who rose through the ranks from Eldoret North Member of Parliament to become one of the country’s prominent leaders and whose word was as good as law in the Rift Valley had opposed the eviction of squatters from the Mau in 2009. He accused his then Prime Minister Raila Odinga of orchestrating what he said were evictions geared “at some conference in Copenhagen.”
The Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Forestry (CS), Keriako Tobiko toured Narok, the country’s water tower and told the squatters in Mau forest to prepare for eviction and no one would be spared during the exercise.
On August 26, the Rift Valley Regional Coordinator (RC), George Natembeya said the second phase of Maasai Mau will kick off in two months and they had already deployed sufficient personnel on the ground to carry out the process.
The Department of Public Prosecutions is investigating several individuals who are alleged to have encroached on Maasai Mau forest and hived for themselves a whopping 35,000 acres of the forest. The state also canceled over 1,200 title deeds in Mau forest which were acquired through scrupulous channels.
The eviction has attracted political turmoil in the region with leaders from the Maa and Kalenjin communities involving themselves in bitter exchange, and some lashing out at President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The eviction which is causing jitters in Jubilee party, Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi hinted that the timing of the evictions is suspicious, coming at a time when the head of state is about to exit the office and would not be seeking votes from the squatters in Mau as was the case in 2017.
Among those who have urged the government to call off the evictions are Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen and Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony who demanded President Kenyatta’s intervention in the matter to avert a looming ‘humanitarian crisis.’
Mau Forest is the largest water tower in Kenya supporting millions of human life and wildlife in Kenya and beyond,