Interior CS Fred Matiang’i on Monday, September 21, directed the National Government to conduct a fresh census in the Mau Forest Complex targeting four counties.
The vast forest borders Kericho County to the West, Narok to the South, Nakuru to the North and Bomet to the South-West. It is divided into seven blocs comprising South-West Mau (Tinet), East Mau, Oldonyo Purro, Trans Mara, Maasai Mau, Western Mau and Southern Mau.
In a press statement seen by 254news.co.ke, CS Matiang’i revealed that the move was necessitated by the urgent need to resolve the conflicts that have plagued the region for decades.
“The State will conduct a fresh census and establish a register of the communities in the Eastern, Mau Forest Block with a view to regularising their settlement in the area,” reads an excerpt from the statement.
CS Matiang’i further directed a special multi-agency task team to spearhead the process, which is expected to be concluded by December 11, 2020.
Covering over 400,000 hectares, the vast Mau complex is the largest of Kenya’s five water towers. It is also the largest closed-canopy forest ecosystem and hosts the single most important water catchment in the Rift Valley and Western Kenya.
The Interior CS made the directive following a meeting with community and religious leaders from the area at the Lake Naivasha Resort.
Consequent to persistent encroachment of the forest area and Kenya Forest Service offices and staff houses, all existing boundary cut-lines and demarcation within the block have been voided, with the government now considering comprehensive remedial interventions to foster peaceful co-existence and avert the escalation of the crisis.
Following the meeting, the CS confessed that some ministry officials had played a role in age-old conflict in the region, and that he had taken various steps to ensure that it would never happen again.
“We have also taken drastic decisions through the re-organisation of our structures and overhaul of our staff, including, surveyors and land adjudication officers.
“Some of the problems we are dealing with have been brought about by challenges in certain government departments. Even the Ministry of Interior’s officers in the Provincial Administration and members of staff in the survey department who made several mistakes that have cost us dearly,” he disclosed.
Additionally, a new peace pact was consensually agreed to by elders from the Ogiek and Kipsigis communities who were present at the landmark meeting.
Matiang’i’s team will now conduct survey computation and plan drawing as laid down in the Forest Conservation and Management Act, 2016, and weed out landlord settlers from the deserving beneficiaries to pave the way for fresh resettlement.
The new plan comes after President Uhuru Kenyatta directed CS Matiang’i and his team to work on a permanent solution to the the Mau problem.