The government has announced plans to relocate around 40,000 families who have been displaced to reclaim 57,000 acres of forest east of Mau.
Cabinet Interior Minister Fred Matiang’i said during the International Day of Peace celebrations yesterday that the arrangements made by the government, the Kipsigis, Tugen and Ogiek communities will relocate families in eleven weeks.
The government also responded to a number of demands from members of the three parishes who come into conflict each year over land ownership in the region.
“These clashes have taken place for the past two decades and we have received orders from the President to resolve this crisis within eleven weeks,”
Under the agreement, the Ogieks are assigned a block of land by court order, while members of the other two communities receive individual title deeds.
The Cabinet Secretary admitted that some government officials, mainly from his office and that of Lands, had contributed to the current impasse.
“To address any issues that arise, we have formed a multi-agency team and will take drastic action against all government officials who have contributed to this issue,” he said.
Matiang’i thanked the leaders of the three parishes and said the land ministry would conduct a survey and subdivision of the land.
“This problem started in 1994 and the clashes have been a major concern of the government, but we are determined to permanently resolve this problem,” he said.
Cabinet secretaries Faridah Karoney (Lands), Charles Keter (Energy) and Tobiko Keriako (Environment) attended the meeting.
Reverend Ibrahim Mutai of the Kipsigis Congregation mentioned the move to relocate them on time and said this would end long-term clashes that left many dead.
“We thank the President for his intervention and for solving this problem as we have lived in fear for years,” he said.
Joseph Miringa of the Ogiek Community said they would continue to push for community and individual title deeds.
“We fully support the ongoing process and hope to receive the community and individual title deeds before December,” he said.
It did so when an international NGO, Equal Access, praised the country for helping vulnerable groups such as Somali-Kenyans, northeastern communities and the marginalized through conflict resolution efforts.
Equal Access international country director Abdirashid Abdullahi also praised measures taken against those who use violence to resolve conflicts.
“The new formula for government revenue sharing is a huge step towards inclusivity. It shows these communities that they belong and not antagonize them. The issuing of ID cards to young Kenyans on the coast and in the northeast is also positive so that they can have a vision in their life and try to become members of society, ”he said.
The Mau Forest Complex, the largest water catchment area in Kenya, consists of 22 blocks covering more than 400,000 acres and spanning seven counties, including Narok County.
The forest is the source of at least 12 rivers.
Over the years evictions have been carried out by the government in an effort to regain the watershed’s lost glory. The evictions took place between 2004 and 2009.
In 2019, during the second phase of the clearance in the Maasai Mau forest, more than 10,000 people were displaced and the government launched a 10 million tree-planting initiative to restore the forest. In the second phase of the clearance, more than 22,000 hectares of land were recovered.
In February 2018, a 19-person task force was set up to deal with activities relating to the management and deforestation of forest resources.
Maasai Mau, one of the 22 forest blocks that make up the Mau Forest Complex, has been severely affected by illegal settlements following the ballooning of five neighboring group farms during the land subdivision.
Security forces set fire to or demolished homes and social facilities including schools, churches and health clinics, leaving many people penniless during the evictions.
[Additional reporting by Julius Chepkwony]