State suspends evictions as MP Ng’eno arrested

Wednesday, September 4th, 2019 08:00 |
Mau complex residents leave the forest. Photo/PD/RAPHAEL MUNGE

The government yesterday suspended the ongoing Mau Complex evictions  and ordered the reopening of 15 schools within the forest. 

The development came even as Emurua Dikirr MP Johanna Ng’eno was yesterday arrested and later released for leading a demo over the exercise. 

And in a curious development, Nakuru county commissioner Erastus Mbui announced the suspension of eviction while his boss, Rift Valley Regional Commissioner George Natambeya, who has been leading the restoration, told People Daily on the phone last evening that the exercise will now be done humanely with a resettlement option being explored.

It will be temporary sigh of relief  for the 10,000 people who were targeted for encroaching on the Maasai Mau Forest in Narok of the Mau Complex following the decision to suspend the exercise and reopening of 15 schools to allow students sit national exams. 

Earlier,  Ng’eno and Ololunga MCA Jefferson Langat were arrested at a temporary road block in Olmekenyu in Narok South after a confrontation with the police.

The legislator and his entourage forcibly removed tree trunks and boulders that had been placed on Mulot-Sagamiani Road as they tried to force their way through.

He was accompanied by his Konoin and Chepalungu counterparts Brighton Yegon, and  Gideon Koskei, respectively, Narok deputy governor Evelyn Aruasa and a host of other local politicians. The others dispersed as Ngeno, who had  confronted the security personnel, was arrested and taken to Narok Police Station where he was quizzed but later released unconditionally.

Ng’eno protested the action by police , saying he would neither be intimidated nor cowed in his resolve to ensure that eviction was stopped.  “What is wrong with visiting Mau forest? It has not been declared a security area. This is intimidation which I’m used to,” he said.

Yegon, who was in the company of Ng’eno, said they were on their way to Kirobon Primary School to check claims of low turnout of pupils. “We were not near the Maasai Mau forest where evictions were to take place, it’s 100 kilometres away,” said Yegon.

According to Muraguri Mwai, the Narok Kenya Forest Service Ecosystem Conservator, more than 500 families have vacated since Sunday. “More than 500 families have already left. By weekend, most would have left,” he said.

Narok county commander Adan Yunis declined to divulge information regarding the arrest of the two leaders, saying he was busy. It was, therefore, not clear if police were planning to prefer any charges on them.

Announcing the suspension, Mbui said: “It is true, the eviction has been stopped so that learning is not interrupted. The exercise might resume during December holidays. It doesn’t mean that the place is no longer forest land. The government just wants to ensure children are able to go to school.”

Illegal schools 

However, observers view this latest move by the government as a tactical retreat in a bid to calm rising ethnic tensions in the volatile region. Mbui said those who want to move out voluntarily are encouraged to do so, so long they don’t use it as an excuse of not taking their children to school. 

Last week, Natembeya announced closure of the schools, saying they were illegally established by corrupt leaders and head teachers using State funds.

Schools that had been earmarked for closure, include Kirobon, Senetwet, Kapsibilwo, Kitoben, Indianit, Kabarak, Noosogami, Chorwet, Ogilgei, Sebetet, Olabai, Koitabai, Chebirbelek, Chebetet and Lelechwet. “It is true the funds used to construct the schools came from the Government. It should, however, be noted that headteachers who received this money legally were deceived into building the illegal schools on forest land,” Natembeya said at the time.  

Hundreds of acres of indigenous forest were cleared in late 1990s in Maasai Mau as group ranches sold land  to unsuspected individuals albeit with blessings from unscrupulous people in government.  

As a result, permanent rivers that were a sight to behold such as Mara River that is famous for the annual wildebeest migration are drying up.

Efforts by the government to repossess and restore the expansive Mau Forest Complex—the country’s biggest water tower—have always been clouded by sectarian interests and emotive political posturing. 

In 2009, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga established the Mau Secretariat and appointed former Rift Valley PC Hassan Noor to chair it. The findings fingered influential personalities, well connected individuals for allocating themselves forest land. The report has never been implemented. - Noah Cheploen and Peter Leshan

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