Mau Forest Evictions Leaves Hundreds of Families Homeless and Destitute
Mau Forest Evictions Spark Outrage Among Residents
The government’s decision to evict hundreds of families from the Mau Forest has been met with resistance and anger by the locals, who claim that they have been living legally on their own land for decades. The evictions, which began in early October, are part of the government’s efforts to protect the country’s water towers and restore the forest cover.
Some of the residents, who have been left homeless and destitute, say that they have been wrongly targeted by the enforcement officers, who have extended the forest boundary beyond the original beacons. They say that they have never encroached on the forest land and that they have valid title deeds for their farms.
Jackson Kesir, a 50-year-old farmer, hired some young men to help him salvage his belongings from the rubble of his house, which he had lived in for five decades. He said that he was born and raised on his farm and that he had nowhere else to go. “This is not the forest, this is our farm…I was born here…my mother and father both lived here…this is the only place I know as home, there is no other place I can go,” he said.
Joel Rotiken, another resident of Medung’i, echoed Kesir’s sentiments. He said that he knew where the forest beacon was and that he had never crossed it. He said that the beacon was about five kilometres away from his home. Daniel Kuria, who had rented a farm near the forest, said that he was unaware that he was on forest land. He said that he was a farmer and that he had rented the land for one year. “They say we entered the forest but not us…we are farmers, we came here and rented land…I have rented for one year now…we cannot know if we are in the forest or not,” he said.
The evictions were ordered by President William Ruto, who announced in early October that he was determined to protect all government forests by hiring more rangers under the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) to monitor the forest activities. He also said that those affected by the evictions would be given alternative land.
However, Rift Valley Regional Commissioner Abdi Hassan said that nearly 23,000 acres of the Maasai Mau forest had been invaded by illegal encroachers. He said that the evictions were necessary to preserve the forest ecosystem, which supports major rivers such as Southern Ewaso Nyiro, Sondu, Njoro and Mara rivers.
The Mau Forest complex is the largest drainage basin in Kenya and has been facing deforestation and degradation for years due to human activities such as logging, farming and settlement. The government has been conducting evictions from the forest since 2004 in order to reclaim the forest land and conserve the water resources.