Mwalimu Mati: Imperial Presidency to Blame over Mau

Kenya has had imperial presidents since Independence. All started out as men of little means and ended up as tycoons.

Everyone knows the history. Jomo Kenyatta's home in Gatundu was a community project, because he had lost years to jailing and detention, and yet he died as the country's single largest landowner.

All Parliaments during his presidency remained silent, and the few Kenyans who challenged his acquisitive style found themselves in detention or worse. The genesis of the landgrabbing mania of Kenya's political elite was epitomised by the Kenyatta era.

His successor Moi continued this trend and the land corruption of both eras has been extensively documented by the Ndungu Commission.

The Mau Forest story is there. So it's not at all ironical that among the potential evictees from the Mau complex is a large scale tea farmer from Kiptagich who once was the President of Kenya and the leader of Uhuru Kenyatta's political party Kanu.

Kiptagich Tea Estates Limited owned by Moi is prominent in the Ndungu Report.

However it appears that Moi's tenure at Kiptagich may be ending soon.

The Standard on Sunday newspaper reported that Prime Minister Raila Odinga's office has said: "On Monday we are sending emissaries to Moi to surrender the Kiptagich Tea Plantation or we take it by force."

That's fighting talk but what remains true is that Moi has no right to profit another day more from a tea factory that he illegally set up by abusing his presidential prerogatives.

Kenyans should not be confused by the hypocrtical and emotional calls by Uhuru, Zakayo Cheruiyot, Franklin Bett, William Ruto, Mutula Kilonzo and Kiema Kilonzo for poor people's taxes to be used to compensate such large-scale land grabbers.

Elements of the neo-Kanu leadership are desperate to avoid having to face the poor people who they deceived into believing that they were being given the land with legitimate titles.

Paul Ndungu who chaired the Commission of Inquiry into Illegal Land Grabbing this year publicly stated that the Kiptagich Tea Estates farm is on illegally grabbed forest land, and that his Commission recommended in 2004 that the government repossess it.

It started in the mid 1980s as a well-meaning campaign to settle the landless. The government decided that the Ogiek community should not be homeless anymore.

They were to be resettled permanently. So government ordered an excision of part of Mau Forest Complex for r settlement.

Ndung'u told the Nation in July that corruption crept in. "Instead of carving out say, 2,000 hectares, those handling the exercise would excise 10,000 hectares and allocate the extra hectares to themselves and other influential individuals in government," he said.

Ndung'u gave the example of Kiptagich settlement, to which some residents from Baringo were moved when their land was taken for construction of a college. Kiptagich, in the southern part of , Mau Forest, started as a very small settlement scheme. And since the area was virgin land and close to Kericho, the new arrivals ventured into growing tea.

According to Ndung'u, Moi, while touring the area, realised tea was doing very well and conceived plans to expand its production. He got himself a huge chunk of land. "The tea growers used to deliver it to the factories near Kericho which was not only far but through very bad road network. Eventually, Moi decided to build a private factory there for them," said Ndung'u.

The report's verdict was that former President's children, who were illegally allocated land, including former Baringo Central MP Gideon Moi and his wife Zahra, Raymond Kiprotich, Doris Choge and Jonathan Toroitich, should return it.

And an audit report of the Mau forests appointed by PM Raila Odinga, which has already been approved by the Cabinet, shows that the Ogiek people were never the beneficiaries of the Mau allocations.

Later in 1997, the government decided to establish in Nakuru another settlement scheme - Olenguruone and extension of Kiptagich for which 1,812 ha were set aside. The intention was to establish an outgrower tea zone for Kiptagich Tea Estates. All these excisions had not been gazetted.

Ndung'u says that because all the settlements were created in the forest before it was de-gazetted to farmland, everything was done illegally.

"It does not matter who gave the directive, including the President... the titles should be revoked, everybody should be evicted and the forest to be replanted," he said.

The writer is the CEO, Mars Group.

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