The Kenya government has expressed commitment to the conservation of Maasai Mau Forest in Narok County.
To underline its commitment, Rift Valley County Commissioner George Natembeya says Phase Two of evictions of squatters from the forest is ongoing and holds the world-famous Masai Mara National Park.
Mr Natembeya told journalists that the government will not relent on its effort to conserve the mega water tower, which is a source of many rivers.
The tough talking commissioner affirmed that the 7,700 people evicted from the forest in July last year during Phase One evictions will not be allowed to return to the forest, neither will they receive any compensation from the government.
“We are aware there are people deceiving the evictees’ that they will be compensated or allowed back to the forest land. Let me make it clear that no one will even be allowed to get access to the forest,” Natembeya said.
The commissioner advised people still living within the set forest cutlines to vacate voluntarily instead of waiting to be forcefully evicted.
“About 46,000 people living in the forest land have been asked to move to other areas. Some have responded to our call and moved to their original homes while a large number is still living in the forest land,” the commissioner said.
Natembeya said the large water catchment forest would be reclaimed by removing illegal settlers from the forest as it was impossible to conserve the forest with thousands of people living inside.
The decision has been a source of political contest between local leaders – the Maasai and Kalenjin.
Among leaders who last year visited the evictees were former ruling Kanu party chairman and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen and former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto.
“We are disturbed by the way some citizens are suffering because they have been left homeless. These people have done no mistake at all yet they have been mistreated. That is inhuman and cannot be tolerated,” said Gideon Moi in one of his visits.
At the same time, Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen accompanied by a battery of politician from the Rift Valley, among them Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot and Emurrua Dikirr MP Johanna Ng’eno, visited the area and promised to fight for the rights of the people.
“If protecting the people’s rights is what will make me lose the Leader of Majority position, so be it be. I will stand with you until justice prevails,” Murkomen said.
Their sentiments were condemned by some Maa leaders who were pushing for the removal of all persons from the forest land. Narok North MP Moitalel Ole Kenta (ODM) and Nominated MP David Sankok (Jubilee) said the move will save the mega water catchment land that had been greatly invaded. Part of Maasai Mau forest is managed by Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and another portion managed by Narok County government.
The portion managed by KFS is intact as it has no human settlement while the 46, 000 hectares managed by the county government have been encroached.