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Daily Nation : January 26th 2014
30 | Sunday Review EMBOBUT FOREST | There was a humane way of doing it, say leaders Politicians ‘see’ pain of evictees as squatters’ houses go up in flames Elgeyo-Marakwet leaders claim government was ignoring those who did not receive compensation BY PHILEMON SUTER email@example.com T he political leadership in ElgeyoMarakwet yesterday dramatically changed tune about the eviction of thousands of Embobut forest dwellers as smoke continued to billow from the water tower. Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, Gov- ernor Alex Tolgos, MPs Kangogo Bowen (Marakwet East), William Kisang (Marakwet West), Jackson Kiptanui (Keiyo South), James Murgor (Keiyo North], Women Rep Susan Chebet and all 30 County Assembly members held a crisis meeting in Iten town and criticised the government for burning houses. “It is very primitive for the government to burn houses in the 21st century. I wonder if there wasn’t any other way of enforcing eviction orders without destruction of property,” said Mr Murkomen. In the meeting also attended by Kenya Forest Service officials and County Commissioner Arthur Osiya, who is the overseer of the eviction, Mr Murkomen said the manner in which it was done was irrational as he questioned the timing of the operation and government’s lack of consideration for those who missed out on State compensation. The government had formed a task force mandated to provide solutions on the best way to address the wanton destruction of water towers and the resettlement of the squatters. The government accused the squatters of plundering huge sections of the catchment through farming, logging, charcoal burning and overgrazing. The task force carried out vetting of genuine squatters and recommended resettlement outside the forest. President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto launched a Sh1.149 billion resettlement programme and handed over the money to the evictees at Tangul primary school in the catchment in November 2013. But observers, including local scholars, said having paid the evictees, the government was in order to evict them. “It is worthwhile to strike while the iron is hot. If some evictees received Sh400,000 each last November and some are reported to have blown the cash in merry-making dur- ing the Christmas and New Year festivities, why should they continue living illegally in the forest?” asked Dr Benjamin Kipkorir, a local scholar and former Kenyan envoy to the United States. Dr Kipkorir said the government was capable of restoring all five key water towers in the country to their former status. But Mr Murkomen called on the authori- ties to halt burning and devise acceptable ways of moving the people out as he warned that the exercise was bound to disrupt learning in schools. Mr Bowen, in whose Marakwet East con- stituency the forest is located, demanded that the authorities give a list of beneficiaries of the Sh1.149 billion re-settlement money. But Endo Ward representative Festus Kirop cautioned the politicians against change of commitment on the restoration of the forest which suffers the threat of extinction as a result of wanton destruction. “I am one of the Kerio Valley residents, the people living downstream and who are directly affected by the destruction of the catchment. We will not have adequate water in our rivers flowing downstream yet the same water is what we depend on for our survival,” said the MCA, adding that the evictees ought to have moved out since the State had already compensated them “including those who deserved to have been in jail for destroying the environment”. The leaders spoke as KFS guards con- tinued burning houses in the forest with a KFS chopper hovering above to assess the situation. “We are very humane and just executing orders. In fact, we have spared a family at Kessom whose mother gave birth to twins during the exercise,” said Alfred Nyaswabu, the KFS zonal manager. Responding to the politicians, the county commissioner confirmed that houses were being burnt and the government will continue to flush every illegal settler out of the ecosystem. “It may seem wrong and primitive to burn houses, but gentlemen, look, we have to face the reality in this one and tell our people that the forest is out of bounds henceforth,” he said. The administrator said the notice came fast because of revelations of the rate at which money was being squandered in various entertainment spots in the local town; money meant for resettlement. About claims by some evictees that not all of them received their rightful share of the State’s Sh1.149 billion compensation, the county commissioner said: “If you missed out on compensation, it means whoever was paid was supposed to take care of those left out or that you did not deserve it. There were criteria and not every squatter was to receive the money.” JARED NYATAYA | NATION From left: ElgeyoMarakwet County Assembly Speaker Albert Kochei, the county’s Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, Governor Alex Tolgos and other leaders address the press after a meeting at Kerio View Hotel in Iten last Friday. SUNDAY NATION January 26, 2014 BRIEFLY NAIROBI Raise free primary school cash: Teachers Primary schools head teachers are demanding an increase in the free primary funds allocated to every pupil per year from the current Sh1,020 to Sh7,800. Speaking at Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development in Nairobi yesterday, Joseph Karuga, the national chairman of the Kenya Primary School Head Teachers Association, said the current amount was too little and did not factor in the rise in the cost of living. He said school heads were at a crossroads, forcing them to introduce levies on parents. MOMBASA Hawkers cleared from the streets Hundreds of hawkers have been cleared from Mombasa town in a week-long operation which saw dozens of others arrested and charged in court. Nearly 1,000 hawkers were charged before the county courts with hawking in restricted areas. Those who pleaded guilty were each fined Sh2,000 or 20 to 21 days in prison. Governor Hassan Joho said the operation will not be halted until all hawkers are removed from the streets, adding that the county is focused on developing a mega city structure to bolster commerce. MIGORI Residents in rush to prove validity of deeds Migori County residents are trooping to the Lands offices to countercheck the validity of their title deeds, following a realisation that some documents being held by the locals could be fake. “I wanted to be sure that my title is genuine. Well-connected cartels have been printing fake title deeds,” said a resident, Mr Vincent Onyango. Banks and other financial institutions are also conducting thorough scrutiny on title deeds presented as security for loans. Officials at the Migori County Lands offices confirmed that many people were seeking to verify the validity of their titles. Two Kiambu legislators come to Kabogo’s defence BY OLIVER MUSEMBI firstname.lastname@example.org Two MPs from Kiambu County have called on their colleagues to stop fighting Governor William Kabogo. Ruiru MP Esther Gathogo and Kiambu Women’s Representative Ann Nyokabi separately appealed to fellow politicians to work together to develop Kiambu. Ms Gathogo accused some Ruiru MP Esther Gathogo. politicians of being behind residents’ protests over increased rates. Last week, traders in Thika and Gatundu took to the streets to protest the county government’s tax. Thika Town MP Alice Ng’ang’a expressed solidarity with the protesting traders. Ms Ng’ang’a said Mr Kabogo had failed the people of Kiambu and demanded that he steps down or be recalled. The county — home to President Kenyatta — has 12 MPs, most of whom have been critical of Mr Kabogo’s style of governing. He has also been accused of disrespecting other leaders. “It is unfortunate that the conflict is giving Kiambu, the home of President Kenyatta, a bad name. We need to settle our differences through dialogue and not confrontation,” Mrs Gathogo said. She added that the political infighting would amount to sabotaging the President by portraying the county as one opposed to devolution. Ms Ng’ang’a and her col- leagues Mr Kigo Njenga (Gatundu North), Mr Njoroge Baiya (Githunguri) and Mr Kimani Ichung’wah (Kikuyu) have often accused the county government of imposing outrageous taxes. Constant fighting But Ms Gathogo and Ms Nyokabi said the county would lag behind because of the constant fighting between the MPs and the governor. Addressing parents and pupils of Kawira primary school in Gatundu North, Ms Nyokabi told MPs to respect the governor. “It is wrong to smear the name of or attack the governor at every opportunity. We should respect each other,” she said. The governor, while ad- dressing a congregation at African Christian Church and Schools in Thika earlier this week, called for an end to the name-calling. “It doesn’t help calling each other names or blaming each other. We can work together,” he said at the forum which was attended by Ms Ng’ang’a, his political nemesis.
October 13th 2013
January 27th 2014