November 16, 2009
Mau issue being handled badly
The Mau Forest restoration plan has predictably given politicians a platform for power-play. There are two issues on the matter.
First, the government has shot itself in the foot by giving the settlers a deadline to leave the forest, but failed to provide an alternative. The result is a mass of displaced people, whose plight is quickly attracting national and international sympathy. This flies in the face of the promise given by the government that the transition from the forest land will be humane and smooth.
Indeed, it is embarrassing that the Provincial Administration in Rift Valley has turned the heat on the Mau Restoration Interim Co-ordinating Secretariat, arguing that it had not widely consulted those on the ground before commencing the relocation exercise.
In other words, the various arms of government are not working in concert. Second is the political agitation which rose at the weekend. Seizing on this delicate matter, Rift Valley politicians, among them Cabinet ministers, made ridiculous demands and threats over the Mau saga.
Paradoxically, some of the pontificating politicians are part of the Mau problem. Under the Kanu regime, which some of them served faithfully, they used their influence to acquire land excised from the forest. In a fair system, they should have been in the dock answering some tough questions. But given the nature of our politics, they have re-styled themselves as land rights champions.
Be that as it may, the government must quickly work out a proper strategy to handle the Mau restoration plan. Those in temporary camps should be resettled. It would a pity if, in an effort to restore the forest cover, the government ends up creating an army of dispossessed citizens.
More importantly, politicians must draw a line between politics and national issues. Politicising a matter of national importance like the Mau, and in particular issuing threats against fellow politicians, is totally unacceptable.