By Evans Kura
Yesterday, President Uhuru Kenyatta stood on the dusty grounds of Tangul Primary school and with a tone of finality and the authority of a head of state declared the proverbial government project of dishing out sh 400 to evictees and IDPâ€™s now applicable to the Embobut forest evictees.
A wild round of applause rented the air as the government announced readiness of the cheques. The project has been hit by controversies back, front, left and right with allegations of there being fake lists doing round as the possible final evictees to be compensated. Every leader from the region including the county senator has been in one way or another been associated with the chemistry of sudden lucrative cash vis-a-vis genuine beneficiaries of this biggest â€˜Corporate Social Responsibilityâ€™ of our time in this region.
As the president made the declaration and of course coupled with other statements touching national politics and the ultimate ICC issue, other members in the entire Marakwet nation, in hushed tones, in other areas discussed on what will become the lives of those people evicted from the expansive forest area with no other alternative land.
Alternative here means those people who had no other ancestral land along the agriculturally barren and snake infested Kerio valley or the white highlands that is part of Marakwet west and Larger Trans Nzoia.
You see the government made a grave mistake by drawing a congruence between the PEV IDPâ€™S and the forest evictees. The earlier were displaced from their homes as a result of a â€˜smallâ€™ civil strife while the later were uprooted from their only homes by the government who realized they were sitting on supposedly forest reserves.
That is supposed to mean that, the same amount of cash meant different things between the two afflicted groups. For a post election Violence casualty, this meant a sudden blessing from up above to perpetuate their business ventures, whether or not somebody was a fake or genuine Post election violence victim.
The government might now be sleeping in peace for having plucked off a huge thorn in its flesh by reselling both the Mau and Embobut forest evictees but coming to carefully think of it, the counter effects might be far more grave.
Let me speak of Embobut because issues sounding this particular program are more familiar to me. More than eighty percent of the Marakwets evicted from the forest still have their lives pegged on the forest. This is close to saying that even away from the forsaken land, the animals stills graze avidly on the land, their kids still run across the now â€˜Hutlessâ€™ hills just to make sure that their cattle and sheep do not mix with other hundreds of animals browsing in the â€˜forestâ€™.
Four hundred thousand seems a lucrative amount for any destitute family but hold on! After walking, smiling to the bank and picketing the cash, what will happen to the herds, herds whose monetary value goes way beyond what these people are fighting tooth and nail to access; the four hundred thousand.
The only thing that amount of money can do today in this highlands is buy an acre of land, let alone erecting a shelter and getting a piece of grazing land.
The government, in a supposedly resettlement mission might have contributed to mass sale of livestock and eventual poverty, poverty born out of an urge re-create forests out of a land occupied by people for centuries.
As government officials and members of Elgeyo Marakwet county government walked away from the function contented of a mission fulfilled, behind them remained a mass of humanity with a thousand questions and no single answer.
Questions geared towards where their herds will disappear to if its true that after the compensation, no single soul safe for those volunteering to plant trees will be allowed into the forest. Questions as to where they will get the cheapest piece of land from. Questions as to if God will listen to their constant pleas and change the diet of a cow, probably to sandsoil or Ugali.
The exercise was forced into fruition despite calls by some of the local leaders to have it halted until all the dust on unfair allocation of monies settles.
Marakwet East legislator Kangogo Bowed had called for the stoppage of compensation in what he termed as corrupt deals to make sure that â€˜ourâ€™ people benefit.
You now see the logic behind what all this cry is about. Peace, which has been down played becomes paramount here. Of what benefit will it be being so generous in a process that will trigger flexing of muscles, muscles that last came to play when the neighboring Pokot cattle rustlers came attacking.
So as those who will romp it home count hundred thousands in their pocket, so should they be also alert, lest the after effects of being kicked of from their â€˜natural nicheâ€™ gets best of them.
Evans kura is a member of Marakwet community and a Final year LMC student at Moi university.