Hassan: Politicising Mau evictions is fatal

The latest tirades pitting Prime Minister Raila Odinga and a cabal of MPs led by Agriculture minister William Ruto over the government's plan to restore the Mau Forest complex are now taking on dangerous proportions that could spark off another round of ethnic passions that could hurtle the country back into chaos.

Yet the Mau Forest restoration exercise is a government policy—period! It has nothing to do with the political ambitions of any one person in government. Hence any attempt by anyone to politicise the Mau restoration should be dismissed with the contempt it deserves.

The Agriculture minister and his cabal of MPs have missed the point and should do some soul-searching over their stand on the Mau.

First and foremost, the controversy of the Mau restoration should not be seen as an issue pitting Prime Minister Raila Odinga against the people of Rift Valley and their leaders.

Anybody who knows the geography of Kenya can appreciate that the Rift Valley
Province is a vast province that stretches from Turkana in the north to Narok and Kajiado in the south.

Not all Rift Valley people have a problem with the government's efforts over Mau conservation.

For example, the Maasai people who were pushed to the extreme south of the Rift Valley would like the Mau to be restored at all costs because this vital water tower sustains their cattle.

A section of Kalenjin MPs led by Ruto have turned the Mau Forest restoration issue into an ethnically-motivated political arm-wrestling contest. All reasonable Kenyans understand that the restoration of the Mau has far-reaching legal, political, economic and humanitarian ramifications.

To restore the Mau, it is inevitable that some people who have settlements in this catchment area will have to be evicted. Of all people, Ruto must know this. The centre of gravity of this whole issue is the apparent failure by Ruto and his colleagues to understand what it means to be a member of government.

Government is the group of people responsible for controlling a country or state. This definition of government presupposes a sense of unity and teamwork in order to undertake this enormous but noble task.

'Parliament' however refers to a group of people who are elected to make the laws of a country and represent certain interests.

The decision to restore the Mau Forest Complex was mooted by government, of which Ruto is a member. Despite legitimate concerns from affected people, it was agreed that the environmental outweighs any other socio-political and economic interests — and Ruto was part of this consensus.

The matter was later brought to Parliament and MPs, including Ruto, agreed that the need to restore the water tower was an urgent matter of national importance. So it came as a, surprise when the Agriculture minister, despite attending a Cabinet retreat for bonding in Mombasa, tore into the government plan to restore the Mau.

The Mombasa communique which the Cabinet committed itself to was very clear:

"Cabinet ministers and assistant ministers will foster unity and cohesion within government by refraining from making adverse public utterances against fellow Cabinet ministers and assistant ministers and those which could cast a bad image of the government."

Hours after committing himself to this communique, Ruto breached it while meeting 'his people' who were honouring a voluntary government quit notice from the Mau.

The minister ranted over the 'eviction of his people' without giving them alternative settlement or compensation.

But while the issue of compensation or re-settlement of Mau evictees is entirely a matter of government policy, it surprised many when Ruto and his echo-chambers became unreasonably personal by directing tirades at Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

The Mau restoration policy involves at least half-a-dozen ministries of which the PM's office only performs coordinating functions. Why would the minister single out the Premier for his criticisms?

It is unfortunate that our leaders have not learnt the lessons of early 2008 and are hell-bent on pushing the country to the brink of the precipice. But this time round they must be contained before they succeed in their dangerous mission.

The writer is a Chevening Fellow, CEO of Kenya Muslim Youth Alliance and deputy secretary general of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims.

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One Response to Hassan: Politicising Mau evictions is fatal

john mwangi said...

I think kenya need politician who are not ethinically minded if we were to have a better future.credit to PM for his solo fight to conserve mau.politician should understand that kenya is great than they think.