September 20, 2008

Kenyan Premier Threatens to Name “Powerful” Beneficiaries of Disputed Forest

Text of report by Kenyan privately-owned TV station KTN on 20 September

[Presenter] Prime Minister Raila Odinga now says he has a list of sitting MPs, as well as powerful individuals in the last regime who have benefited from Mau Forest land [in southwestern Kenya].

In a move that could turn the Mau debate on its head, Raila said the return of 15,000 families to Mau was politically-motivated, and warned that he will name and shame those pretending to be protecting the rights of the settlers in the Mau complex, and yet they were the ones who were benefiting.

[Reporter] The prime minister has turned the heat on those he says have been shouting loudest over the intended Mau evictions. In one of his boldest statements on the Mau so far, Raila now says the lion share of the Mau forest land, lies in the hands of the who-is- who in Kenya's politics, and he has the list.

[Odinga] You are saying you are landless, yet you own where you are coming from, over one hundred acres. And you come into Mau and you get 2,000 hectares of land [Sentence as heard]. If these people do not shut up, I am going to expose them, because I have the names. [applause]

[Reporter] The plan to remove settlers from the critical Mau water catchment has seen intense political bickering, that has threatened to divide Raila's ODM [Orange Democratic Movement] party. A group of MPs has firmly stood behind the Mau settlers, saying they had genuine titles, while pro-eviction politicians have maintained that the titles are illegal and should all be revoked. Raila now says some of the politicians are only interested in protecting their ill-gotten wealth in the forest.

[Odinga] The main beneficiaries are who-was-who then, who own thousands, hundreds of acres in that area. And they are the noisiest right now; they are not making noise because they are trying to protect mwananchi [citizens] who are there. They are protecting their own interests. They are protecting their ill-gotten pieces of land.

[Reporter] It remains to be seen how this latest turn of events will affect the currents in the Mau Forest crisis. Will the personal interests finally be separated from critical environmental issues? Or will the flexing of political muscle intensify as the situation gets worse, and rivers continue to dry? It seems the real debate has just began.

[Odinga in Swahili] I have said you should stop incitement, otherwise I will announce their names in public, so that everyone knows who they are. [applause] I have a list from the Ministry of Lands of all the people who stole land in the Mau.

[Reporter] Raila was speaking at the Lake Nakuru National Park where he presided over the Cycle with the Rhino 2008 charitable event. The event attracted some 60 cyclists who helped to raise 8.6m shillings [about 120,000 dollars] for conservation efforts at Lake Nakuru.

Originally published by KTN TV, Nairobi, in English 1800 20 Sep 08.

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