[diggers350] Kenya evicts thousands of forest squatters in attempt to save Rift valley

David Bangs dave.bangs at virgin.net
Thu Nov 19 18:53:49 GMT 2009

I'm certain you're right, Mark and I'm with the squatters...but the environmental issues are an imperative of equal weight, too. There are many parallel issues here in Britain, though without the degree of brutality and pain seen in the Kenya struggle...The task is to make demands that satisfy both imperatives: - the need to organise against homelessness and loss of livelihood and the need to defend the environment...
Dave Bangs

[TLIO has a detailed 'Land For Homes' policy. There is no conflict of interest between responsible and sympathetic, low-impact human settlement and the environment. ed.]

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Mark 
  To: LegacyofColonialism at yahoogroups.com ; diggers350 at yahoogroups.com 
  Sent: Thursday, November 19, 2009 4:01 PM
  Subject: [diggers350] Kenya evicts thousands of forest squatters in attempt to save Rift valley

  Where the survival of underpriviledged peoples' squatting conflicts
  head-on with concerns for environmental protection in Kenya... question
  is, reading between the lines, it is no doubt vested capital interests in
  the tourism, tea and energy industries acting to primarily protect their
  interests - not altruistic concerns of environmental protection:

  Kenya evicts thousands of forest squatters in attempt to save Rift valley

  Tourism, tea and energy industries threatened after a quarter of huge Mau
  forest destroyed in 20 years

  by Xan Rice in Nairobi
  The Guardian, Wednesday 18 November 2009

  Several thousand people who had settled illegally in Kenya's most
  important forest have left their homes at the beginning of an eviction
  plan designed to end rampant environmental degradation in the Rift valley.

  Security officers this week entered the Mau forest, the country's largest
  water catchment basin, in the first stage of a government operation that
  will eventually see up to 30,000 families leave. More than a quarter of
  the 400,000-hectare forest has been lost because of human activity over
  the past 20 years, threatening Kenya's crucial tourism, tea and energy
  sectors and the livelihoods of millions of people reliant on the Mau

  "We have no time to waste here," said Christian Lambrechts, a United
  Nations environment programme expert seconded to the government's Mau
  Secretariat. "The ecological services must be restored."

  The dozen or so rivers that originate in the montane forest complex feed
  the Masai Mara Reserve and Lake Victoria, as well as the lush tea fields
  of Kericho. But in recent years the river flows have decreased or stopped
  during the dry season. At Lake Nakuru, Kenya's most visited national park,
  wildlife officials were forced to pump in water to supply the animals this
  summer when all the feeder rivers dried up.

  A serious drought that has led to water and power shortages across the
  country was a contributing factor. But human destruction of the once-thick
  Mau Forest, which has caused its aquifer levels to fall significantly and
  seen soil erosion increase, played a major part. At its root, as so often
  happens in Kenya, is politics and corruption. Before the 1990s, the forest
  was a protected area. But then senior officials in President Daniel arap
  Moi's government grabbed large plots of the highly fertile land for
  themselves - Moi still owns a large tea farm in the Mau - profiting from
  the timber they cleared. They also removed protection from other parts of
  the forest where thousands of their supporters were allowed to settle and
  begin farming. Many of the plots were subdivided and then illegally sold
  on, sometimes to unwitting buyers.

  Amid warnings that the entire ecosystem in the Rift valley and western
  Kenya was in danger due to the rapid deforestation, Kenya's government has
  made saving the Mau its number one environmental priority. A task force
  formed by the prime minister, Raila Odinga, last year recommended that all
  settlers in the forest be removed and that cleared areas be rehabilitated
  through mass tree planting. Only genuine titleholders - many of the titles
  in circulation are fictitious - are to be considered for compensation.

  Some politicians from Moi's Kalenjin ethnic group, among them large
  beneficiaries of the land grab, have opposed the plan, describing it as an
  attack on their community. They have demanded alternative land for the
  nearly 1,700 families - about 8,000 people - identified as illegal
  squatters without title who are being targeted in the first phase of the
  operation. About 3,500 of them had left the Mau by this morning after
  being served with eviction notices. Some have complained they have nowhere
  else to go.

  The next round of relocations, due in the next few months, will focus on
  those people with some sort of title to the land. The trickiest part will
  be dealing with the large landowners, including the politicians, who are
  unlikely to give up their farms without a fight.

  It is likely that some forest dwellers, including a few thousand members
  of the Ogiek ethnic group who have lived in the Mau for generations, will
  be allowed to remain.


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