Monday, November 23, 2009



November 22 2009
The government on Sunday ordered Mau Forest squatters out of makeshift camps as it stepped up efforts to clear settlers out of the water catchment.

At the same time, Prime Minister Raila Odinga was on tour of the Rift Valley where he launched a strong attack on the province’s leaders, whom he accused of having benefited from illegal allocation of land in the forest.

The PM, on tour of Chepalungu constituency without the usual escort of local MPs, charged that ministers from the province attended a Cabinet meeting during which the decision to evict the settlers was reached.

Both the ministers and MPs were also in Parliament when a report to remove settlers in the Mau was adopted, he said, adding that the leaders did not raise a finger to oppose the report.

“Those who are inciting them (settlers) and shedding crocodile tears were beneficiaries of thousands of acres of land, and if they are honest, let them settle the squatters in their lands,” he said.

Local leaders, among them Cabinet ministers William Ruto and Franklin Bett, have protested against the evictions and asked the government to provide alternative settlement for the squatters.

They have argued that the plight of the squatters, camping on roadsides, is Mr Odinga’s fault and that their people were being mistreated by the government.

Speaking at Siongiroi Catholic Church where he presided over a harambee, Mr Odinga, who was accompanied by Cabinet minister Fred Gumo, assistant minister Joseph Nkaissery and Nominated MP Musa Sirma, said he had no personal interest in the Mau.

Nineteen councillors from Chepalungu constituency attended the meeting and pledged to support Mr Odinga in conserving the forest. They also said they would support him if he ran for the presidency in 2012.

Mr Gumo, the Regional Development minister, dismissed local MPs as selfish individuals who were sycophants in the Kanu regime.

Mr Nkaissery asked a section of leaders to desist from referring to themselves as being from the Rift Valley.

“Kalenjin community leaders should not speak as if the Rift Valley is theirs. This is a province with very many communities that are not willing to be drawn into chest thumping and confrontational politics that some of them are engaging in...their tribal politics will eventually isolate them from the rest of Kenyans,” he said.

He criticised MPs who issued the government with an ultimatum and threatened to lead squatters back into the Mau Forest.

Mr Sirma urged his Rift Valley colleagues to embrace dialogue.

“Let church leaders pray for your leaders. As for us, we are not going to be engage in a war of words,” he said.