In Summary
  • Four governments (Kanu, Narc, Coalition and Jubilee) later, four task forces and three rounds of evictions, the forest is yet to be surveyed, gazetted and titled.
  • Maasai Mau is the birthplace of two major components of the well-being of Kenya and Tanzania, the Ewaso Nyiro and Mara rivers.

The government has lined up for prosecution tens of individuals it believes bear the greatest responsibility for the dishing out of huge swathes of the 46,000-hectare Maasai Mau forest.

Rift Valley Regional Commissioner George Natembeya says the government has collected all it needs — green cards, topographical maps and gazette notices — and that it was all systems go for their arraignment to face charges for the destruction of one of the largest closed canopy forests in Africa.

Among those targeted are top politicians and former Lands ministry officials who were stationed in Narok and Nairobi at the time of the plunder. Others are county council officials and group ranch leaders.

“All government officials who were involved have recorded statements. For those who have died, we have gone to their graves to confirm that they have indeed died. We also have their death certificates,” Mr Natembeya told the Nation in an exclusive interview.

EVICTIONS

This development is likely to end the nearly three decades of inertia, politicking and delays in resolving the unbridled encroachment on a forest considered the mainstay of millions of people in Kenya and Tanzania.

“We have already handed their files to the DPP, and it’s just a matter of time before they are arrested and charged,” Mr Natembeya said recently.

The cases may coincide with the removal of close to 5,000 families said to be living in the disputed land in Narok County. A 60-day notice issued three weeks ago lapses in November.

About 17,101 hectares of the Forest’s original 45,743.8 hectares have gone in addition to 32,000 hectares of its reserve.

The encroachment continues, even now. “There was a caveat placed in 2009, but the (irregular) allocations continue,” said Mr Natembeya.

In the eye of the storm include registered surveyors, Lands and Forestry officials, and top leaders of five group ranches.

Officials of the group ranches — Reiyo, Enkaroni, Sisiyan, Enaikishomi and Enoosokon — took advantage of President Daniel Moi’s directive in the 1990s to subdivide their pieces, to invade the neighbouring Maasai Mau forest.

GROUP RANCHES

After ballooning their boundaries, they roped in the now-defunct Narok County Council staff, surveyors and public servants to make the encroachment appear legal.

Persons of interest include registered surveyors Jackton Mogaka, George Gaya, Silas Mukethectares, Francis Kipngetich and Joseph Mukhole. Others are land registrars John Chepkirui (deceased), A.S Bamosa and Joseph Onyambu.

The officials of group ranches at the centre of the irregularity include Napatau ole Kana, Rukuti ole Konata and Sanja ole Sankei (Sisiyan Group Ranch).

Other wanted officials are Sampele ole Maleto, Fredrick Cheres, Benson Kori (Reiyo Group Ranch), Oloosuya ole Tiyo, Juma ole Kimanyim and Lemein ole Kiputa (Enoosokon Group Ranch), and David Lekuta ole Sulunye, Stanley Naiyeya Sirma and William ole Sirma (Enokishomi Group Ranch).

Mr Natembeya said files of the ranch leaders are ready. “Small or big, no one is going to be spared and that is the position we are communicating today,” Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko had warned in an earlier interview.

Every attempt to restore the Maasai Mau forest has turned into a game of musical chairs.

WATER TOWER

Four governments (Kanu, Narc, Coalition and Jubilee) later, four task forces and three rounds of evictions, the forest is yet to be surveyed, gazetted and titled.

It remains a trust land, a magnet to speculators with a hyena’s lust for public land. Indeed, every attempt to protect it has often ended up as an exercise in futility.

Instructively, Maasai Mau is not just an ordinary forest. Apart from being the lifeline of Maasai Mara Game Reserve, it’s the birthplace of two major components of the well-being of Kenya and Tanzania, the Ewaso Nyiro and Mara rivers.

If it is destroyed, the Mara - Serengeti ecosystem (which hosts the spectacular wildebeest migration) - would lose all its plant and animal life.

Tea estates in counties neighbouring Narok will wither, and the region’s livestock sector will crumble

This latest development came as the Nation carried out extensive investigations in Narok, Nakuru and Nairobi in a bid to unravel this pilferage.

We can now reconstruct the plunder that’s transforming a once-continuous canopy into an ecological disaster. The mayhem was methodical but hardly intricate.

It all started in the 1980s when pockets of people invaded it in search of chectaresrcoal and timber.

LAND COMMISSION

But the blitzkrieg came in the 1990s after officials of five group ranches next to this forest — Reiyo, Enkaroni, Sisiyan, Enaikishomi, Enoosokon — took advantage of President Moi’s directive to the ranches to subdivide their pieces among respective members.

The ranches applied for consent in 1999 to subdivide their pieces. Even at this time, the encroachment on the forest had started in earnest, and this forced authorities to evict illegal squatters in 1984.

Two years later, the government formed the oft-quoted Ntutu Presidential Commission to delineate the forest. Then, the five group ranches owned 3,975.5 hectares.

This commission led by paramount chief Lerionka ole Ntutu declared boundaries and recommended this forest be gazetted.

Then things unravelled. Officials of these group ranches comprising Maasais and Ogieks went beyond their boundaries and invaded the forest.

From 3,975.5 hectares, the allocated area ballooned to 18,078.2 hectares, an increase of 14,103.7 hectares. The land parcels resettled rose from 814 to 1,962.

Sisiyan Group Ranch expanded (through boundary amendment no. MUT/AM/NAR/1463/2000) from 44.5 hectares to 1,215.6 hectares, Nkaroni from 1,597.5 hectares to 5,582.5 hectares, Enoosokon from 155 hectares to 653 hectares, Enakishomi from 1,748.5 to 9,748.5, while Reiyo increased from 26 hectares to 878.6 hectares.

IMPUNITY

Reiyo, a group ranch initially far from the Maasai Mau Forest, manipulated its boundary to include a parcel inside the forest.

One of the allocations in this Reiyo group benefited then-Narok District Land Registrar John Chepkurui.

The boundary of Enakishomi, a group ranch in Olololunga, was altered in 1998 through amendment MUT/NAR/317/4/98, according to available documents.

The plunder was as blatant as it was bold and the appetite was pervasive.

Leaders of the group ranches and Lands ministry officials defied various caveats and restrictions and went further to alter their boundaries.

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