In Summary
  • The allocations started in 1996 under the pretext of resettling the forest-dwelling Ogiek community and families displaced in ethnic clashes.
  • A task force chaired by Prof Fredrick Owino had recommended that all settlers be cleared out of the forest, with smallholders being given alternative land.

Three government investigations spanning the past 15 years point to blatant impunity, contempt for the law and primitive greed in the plunder of Kenya’s most important water tower.

Though the investigations were carried out by markedly different teams, their conclusions are remarkable in their similarities — the rich and well-connected used all tricks in the book to get a slice of Mau, the largest closed canopy forest in East Africa, at a great ecological and economic cost to the country.

Years of Mau Forest destruction has caused an environmental disaster, resulting in a reduction in rainfall, the drying up of rivers and the near-collapse of agriculture and other economic activities downstream.

And as the government battles to save the soul of Mau, the prominent beneficiaries — some of whom made millions by selling land to the thousands of peasants who are currently being kicked out of the forest — are enjoying their wealth without worry.

Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, former Baringo Central MP Sammy Mwaita, who was at the time the Commissioner of Lands, former presidential aide Joshua Kulei and former Permanent Secretary Zakayo Cheruiyot are some of the 25 powerful individuals fingered by a task force commissioned by Prime Minister Raila Odinga in 2009.

POLITICAL REWARDS

As the Daily Nation exclusively reported at the time, the 25 were given 500 hectares of Mau Forest, with many of them getting 20 hectares, way above the five recommended as the standard size in settlement schemes. Some, such as Mr Mwaita, were allocated several pieces.

The allocations started in 1996 under the pretext of resettling the forest-dwelling Ogiek community and families displaced in ethnic clashes.

At the end of the free-for-all, more than 60,000 hectares of forest cover had been destroyed and turned into farmland, with very little going to the intended beneficiaries.

A former Cabinet minister, a permanent secretary, five MPs, and a former provincial commissioner were allocated land at Ngongongeri.

At Mariashoni, 18 companies were allocated portions ranging from four to eight hectares each in 1998 alone.

At Kiptagich, 20 groups, among them two parastatals, a secondary school and a church leader, were some of the beneficiaries of portions ranging from 2.8 to 23 hectares.

Most allocations were not for development, but as political reward and for speculative purposes, the investigations concluded.

ILLEGAL TITLES

Huge chunks of the Mau Complex were excised by public officials who had no legal authority to do so.

Chiefs, district officers, district commissioners, provincial commissioners and departmental lands and forest officers benefited.

“The activities of these personalities signify the complete breakdown of the rule of law and order in land allocation. The various officers acted with such impunity and disregard to wider social, economic, ecological and development interests of the country,” the task force notes.

Page 1 of 2