State won’t compensate Mau forest evictees, says Tobiko

Wednesday, September 11th, 2019 00:00 |
Environment Cabinet secretary Keriako Tobiko when he appeared before National Assembly’s Environment committee over Mau evictions, yesterday. Photo/PD/SAMUEL KARIUKI

The government yesterday maintained that settlers who own land in Mau forest will not be compensated even as it emerged that top senior State officials and original owners of group ranches who sold the forest land  are likely to be arrested.

Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko told members of the National Assembly that the Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) George Kinoti had concluded investigations into the encroachment of 14,000 hectares and forwarded the file to the Director of Public Prosecutions for action.

Those facing arrests include officials of the group ranches who sold the land to 7,000 other individuals, Ministry of Land officials and members of the Land Control Board as they were the ones authorised to deal with the matter.

 “Criminal investigations are completed and files relating to the criminality of the officials and group ranches has been handed over to the DPP for action,” said the CS.

Titles illegal

Tobiko, who had appeared before the Environment committee chaired by Maara MP Kareke Mbiuki also told the members that the evictions in the forests will continue as all the titles being held by certain locals were null and void “as they were just mere papers”.

Insisting that he has the blessings of President Uhuru Kenyatta as he is the one who asked him to restore the water towers in the country, Tobiko said  the reclamation of the Mau forest is unstoppable despite the current political temperatures in the country pushing the government to stop the exercise.

Tobiko said the fact that title deeds were given by rogue government officials cannot be regarded as valid and thus cannot use an illegal document to compensate people who fraudulently acquired land. 

The CS, however, said the government was willing to assist those who voluntarily record statements and provide documents showing from whom they had  bought their land.

Out of the 3,372 households or approximately 16,000 persons that the government is set to evict from the forest, 716 individuals are said to have valid tile deeds, 4,439 individuals have sale agreements and letters of allotment, 2,741 have no documents at all.

“This is not an issue between two tribes, it is about a gazzetted water tower that we need to save today and not tomorrow.

It will be illegal for a person who enters into an illegal dealing, that the government cleans up the illegality by compensating such individuals,” said the CS.

Tobiko said officials of the group ranches were arrested because they were instrumental in selling the land to third parties.

He said the group ranches initially had a total of 3,000 hectares but their land later ballooned to over 17,000 without explanation.

But immediately Tobiko was done, the session turned into a shouting match after MPs started banging tables and shouting at the CS demanding that he withdraws his statement on the titles.

MPs Hilary Koskei (Kipkelion) and Charity Kathambi (Njooro) demanded that he withdraws his statement as he had no powers to declare a valid title deed as  just a paper.

Koskei told Tobiko to stop lying to the committee arguing that titles ought to be respected and that they can only be declared as illegal through a court process.

Hii ujinga lazima uwache (this nonsense must stop); title deeds are valid documents and they  must be respected,” he said.

Phase Two of the evictions aims to reclaim 22,000 acres of land, the first one having netted 11,000 acres after evicting 1,772 households or 8, 800 persons as well as 3, 000 livestock.

Last week, former Cabinet Ministers  Isaac Ruto and Franklin Bett called on the government to halt the eviction on grounds that innocent villagers stand to suffer while one-time legislators Zakayo Cheruiyot (Kuresoi South), Magerer Lang’at (Lipkelion) and Musa Sirma (Eldama Ravine) urged the State to ensure eviction are conducted  in a humane manner.

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