The Government has launched an exercise to identify forest cut lines following persistent skirmishes linked to land ownership disputes that have rocked Nessuit, Mariashoni, Ndoswa, Kaprop and Kapnoswa areas in the Eastern Mau Forest Nakuru County, leaving scores of people dead.

Rift Valley Regional Commissioner George Natembeya said Kenya Forest Service is undertaking a multi-agency operation to reclaim Logoman, Sururu, Likia, Kiptunga, Mariashoni, Nessuit, Baraget and Olposimoru forests within Mau Forest Complex.

Addressing a public baraza at Nessuit, the administrator stated the multi-agency team will work with 40 elders from both Kipsigis and Ogiek Communities.

He said those who acquired parcels of land legally in the region would be issued with ownership documents adding that the mission of the operation is to stop all illegal human activities from government forests which form the Eastern side of Mau Forest Complex. At least 4500 hectares of forest land has been reclaimed, 945 illegal structures destroyed.

The administrator observed that violence has been linked to the sticky Mau Forest land issue and political incitement among other factors.

Natembeya said the exercise which involves officers from KFS, Ministry of Lands and the Kenya Police Service will not be halted as more evictions are expected in Nessuit, Tachasis Chepkosa, Sururu and Likia targeting about 20,000 households.

 In July, the Environment and Lands Court in Nakuru issued orders barring the government from evicting people from the Eastern Mau Complex.

Justice John Mutungi issued the orders following a petition filed by Nessuit Ward Member of County Assembly Samuel Tonui.

Tonui, who is also the Deputy Speaker at the Nakuru County Assembly, went to court under a certificate of urgency, to sue Kenya Forest Service, Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Environment and Forestry Keriako Tobiko and Mr Natembeya.

The Deputy speaking while addressing the Barasa said he will only withdraw the case if public participation is conducted and representatives of the affected communities are involved in the exercise.

Tonui noted that vide Gazette Notice No. 889 dated January 30, 2001, and published on February 16, 2001, the Government through the then Minister of Environment altered the boundary of the Eastern Mau Forest by excising an area of land approximately 35,301.01 hectares. This led to the creation of the now Nessuit, Mariashoni, Sururu, Lilia, Teret and Sigotik settlement schemes.

He said a survey was conducted in 1997 and beacons placed and cutline established.

“There is a real live and serious threat to security, peace and stability of the area of the forceful evictions, malicious destruction of property and alienation of private owners’ property rights illegally and unlawfully proceeds,” read the suit.

The manner in which the eviction is being executed according to the MCA is inhumane.

He said the over 45,000 locals being evicted have valid title deeds issued by the Government in the years 1997, 2005 and in 2013.

Tonui sought orders directing KFS, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and the Regional Commissioner be barred from interfering with the quiet and peaceful enjoyment of property rights of the residents in the area.

Justice Mutungi having perused the Notice of Motion dated July 16, 2020, together with the petition said he was persuaded that it raises weighty and valid constitutional issues.

“I am persuaded the petition raises weighty and valid constitutional issues, whether or not the residents right to property are likely to be violated if the evictions are carried on and whether or not the forest land eventually allocated to some residents was lawful degazetted and excised,” read part of the orders of the court.

The judge further noted that some of the residents hold titles dating back to 1991 and there is a need to establish their validity.

He noted that rendering people homeless during the Covid-19 period could be catastrophic.

“Having regard to the issues and the implications that go with evictions where a multitude of persons may be rendered homeless and that could be particularly catastrophic during this period of Covid-19 pandemic and I am persuaded to grant conservatory order pending hearing and determination of Notice of Motion,” stated Justice Mutungi.

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