A showdown looms between the government and Deputy President William Ruto’s brigade as a massive eviction of settlers from the Mau Forest kicks off.
According to reports the government has already activated security personnel to kick out encroachers on the 46,000-hectare forest complex from next week.
Last year, the DP’s allies vehemently opposed the government’s push to flush out illegal settlers in the Mau complex, a move that split the government right in the middle.
The latest round of evictions could set the ruling party on the brink of an implosion, coming at a time when infighting in Jubilee has hit a crescendo.
Kipkelion West MP Hillary Kosgei likened the evictions to crimes against humanity.
“The eviction is now not about the Ministry of Environment. The President as the father of the nation should step in. We want to ask that evictions not take tribal angles,” Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony said
Chepkwony argued that should the government forcefully evict their people, then they had other options including taking legal action.
“But for now, we believe that a lasting solution will be found,” he said.
Chepkwony publicly raised the matter with Uhuru last week during the memorial service for Bomet Governor Joyce Laboso and asked the President to intervene.
“It is important to conserve Mau forest but it is also important to trace the root cause of the encroachment. There are several people who were conned into buying those pieces of land and it is not fair to call the title deeds they have just paper,” the governor said.
The eviction is now not about the Ministry of Environment. The President as the father of the nation should step in. We want to ask that evictions not take tribal angles
Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko has announced that 60,000 people are targeted in the second phase of the eviction, that has become a political hot potato for over a decade.
“Evictions will happen from next week. Preparations are at an advanced stage,” a senior ministry of Environment official told disclosed
On Wednesday, the Kenya Water Towers Agency acting director-general Julius Tanui said his agency had received instructions to prepare to secure the complex.
“We have received instructions to wait. Our main work will be to secure and rehabilitate after evictions. That is where conservation begins,” he said.
On July 25, Tobiko vowed to ensure the evictions go on as planned, saying that no amount of intimidation would stop it.
“Water towers are our lungs and the rivers flowing are our bloodstream. Why would the environment become a political question? It does not know about tribes; the environment does not care,” he said.
Similar evictions in 2009 coupled with ICC charges against Ruto cost former Prime Minister Raila Odinga the fanatical support he enjoyed among the Kalenjin community from the 2007 election.
Ruto, the region’s political kingpin, is already walking a tightrope as he moves to firm up his 2022 presidential bid following fast-changing dynamics in Jubilee and Raila’s handshake with President Uhuru.
The DP’s dilemma is whether to support the government’s environment conservation measures or sacrifice it at the altar of political expediency.
If he will not intervene to stop the evictions, he will be seen by his people to be a powerless DP and confirm fears of his whittling influence in the Jubilee government.