July 21, 2008

Kenyan Premier to Institute Probe into Forest Dispute

Excerpt from report by Lucas Barasa, Sollo Kiragu, Barnabas Bii, Wanjiru Macharia and Simon Siele entitled "Team to resolve Mau dispute" published by Kenyan privately-owned newspaper Daily Nation website on 21 July; subheading as published

Prime Minister Raila Odinga is set to launch a task force to address the Mau Forest [in the Rift Valley] complex dispute Monday [21 July], even as a section of Rift Valley leaders vowed to resist the planned eviction of farmers allocated land in the forest.

A press invitation from the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife to cover the launch said that it will be held at the Treasury Building's boardroom at 2.00 p.m. [local time].

The task force is to, among other things, work with local communities in addressing the Mau problems.

Two MPs from the Maasai and Kipsigis communities will sit in the committee comprising representatives from a number of ministries and other stakeholders.

The committee will demarcate and fence the 400,000-hectare Mau complex, which is the source of 12 rivers and a lifeline for millions of people. It will further mobilize resources to restore the complex and establish a special court to prosecute those found involving in irregularities in the forest.

Mr Odinga came under sharp criticism from 10 Rift Valley MPs last week following a directive to thousands of people living in the forest to vacate by October.

The government has said that it will only resettle 1,960 people who have been issued with title deeds for the land.

Yesterday, Rift Valley leaders said that the evictions should be shelved until the affected families are compensated.

Kipkelion MP Magerer Lang'at demanded that all leaders and stakeholders be consulted.

"Leaders from the region are not opposed to the conservation of the Mau Forest, but the government should consult the affected families," he said.

He said alternative land to resettle the families should be found. [Passage omitted]

Originally published by Daily Nation website, Nairobi, in English 21 Jul 08.

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