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Citizen Weekly

Sunday, 16 November 2014

MAU FOREST SQUATTERS TOO HOT A POTATO FOR NAROK JUBILEE


Major cracks have emerged among the ruling Jubilee coalition leaders in Narok county over the Mau Forest squatters saga.  
On one side is a team led by Narok North MP Moitalel ole Kenta and on the other is Governor Samuel ole Tunai.
The two leaders have publicly demonstrated two different views over hundreds of people allegedly purporting to be squatters still settled in Mau forest.
Kenta who has since teamed up with veteran politician William ole Ntimama and former Transport Licensing Board chairman Hassan ole Kamwaro have since given the government up to November 24, to evict the squatters.
The trio at a highly charged public baraza held at Ilariak in Ewaso Ngiro area of Narok town threatened to mobilise members of the Maasai community led by their morans to forcibly evict the  squatters from the water catchment forest come the deadline of their ultimatum.
They alleged the squatters are from the neighbouring Bomet and Kericho counties and vowed to stay put until the government found them an alternative land to move to or compensate them the land they are living on at current market price.
Deputy President William Ruto in one of his recent visits to the Narok county said the squatters’ case will be finalised in two years’ time and those pushing for their eviction to slow down.
The DP’s sentiments however did not go down well with likes of Kenta and his team and immediately started warning Ruto of dire political consequences for allegedly using the Mau Forest squatters saga to advance his political clout in the area.
Tunai has assured the squatters of his protection for as long he remained the governor.
However, according to the Kenta team, the governor’s stand  to back Ruto’s sentiments were provocative and unacceptable for as long as the lives of the members of the Maa community and their animals living downstream are under threat from the ongoing destruction of the forest by the squatters through illegal logging and charcoal burning.
The government through Narok county commissioner Hassan Farah has given endless threats to squatters still in the forest to voluntarily move out or face forcible eviction by security officers.
The county commissioner threats  with  no action has according to Kenta, who was elected on TNA ticket and now turned rebel in the ruling coalition,  is just public relations  before the squatters’ saga is turned into a full blown political tool for the 2017 general elections by the URP wing of the ruling coalition.
The recent appearance of elderly Ntimama in public gathering triggered the memories of his aborted defection process from ODM to TNA after the doors to State House failed to open to him.
Narok county is classified as a URP zone save for the Narok North constituency where Kenta was fielded and successfully won the seat on TNA ticket courtesy of block voting pattern by the Kikuyu community living in the area particularly in Narok town. 
“Mau Forest is the source of water of major rivers including the Mara river that feeds thousands of animals in Maasai Mara Game Reserve and the economic lifeline of members of the Maasai community who use revenue generated from tourism activities in the area to pay school fees for their children through bursaries and employment of their sons and daughters and cannot afford to sit and watch people interfere,” explained Kenta as he vowed to push for eviction of the squatters to the bitter end .
The government has tried to resolve the Mau Forest land encroachment and known senior politicians among them Raila Odinga have suffered major political blows.
However, for Kenta’s case, his push for the eviction of the squatters from the forest will earn him political mileage locally.
However, his TNA boss Uhuru Kenyatta will be impacted negatively come 2017 presidential elections because many will read Kenta as Uhuru agent in the game and might trigger bad blood between Uhuru and Ruto.
Should Kenta continue chestthumping on the Mau Forest squatters’ issue, Uhuru might look for an alternative choice as Narok North constituency seat TNA flagbearer to clip Kenta’s wings to be sure of a win if Ruto failed to push for a URP candidate.