Evictions in the Mau Forest

November 20, 2009

Daniel M. Kobei, an Ogiek leader, told New York Times reporter, “Tell Obama and his men to help us.  It’s not that we’re special, but this forest is our home.”

The Ogiek are Kenya’s traditional forest dwellers and honey hunters, living off the land in Mau Forest. Unfortunately, however, the Ogiek will now be in search of a new land as the government looks to remove settlers from the region, close to 25,000 people.

The hope is to conserve the delicate ecosystem of the forest.  The Environment News Service writes that the forest provides Kenya and the region with  ‘river flow regulation, flood mitigation, water storage, reduced soil erosion, biodiversity, carbon sequestration, carbon reservoir and microclimate regulation’.

But due to heavy deforestation and a regional water crisis, the government plans to clear the forest in order to plant millions of trees.

But at what cost to those living there?

The Standard writes,

“The possession of a parcel of land, even if tenuous or without legal backing, is the only access to capital for most. Losing it, as well as the harvest on it, will reduce many to destitution. Thus, it is imperative they get help from the Government and organizations like the Kenya Red Cross Society.”

According to the Daily Nation, the Kenyan government started delivering food aid last week for squatters evicted from the Mau Forest such as maize, beans and vegetable oil.

The sudden interest in environmentalism by the Kenyan politicians is breeding suspicious for those that once called the Mau Forest home.

“The government wants that forest for economic reasons, not conservation reasons,” said Towett Kimaiyo, an Ogiek leader. “The only people who are going to benefit are the saw-millers.”

Do you think that the settlers in the Mau Forest should be compensated, with or without a title deed?  What about the Ogiek who have lived on the land for centuries and have proven to take care of the region?

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When President Robert Mugabe first rose to power United State’s President Jimmy Carter told the London Times Mugabe was a “very gentle man” whom he “can’t imagine … ever pulling the trigger on a gun to kill anyone.”

Fast-forward three decades, and the United States position on the Mugabe has evolved quite a bit.

In our final segment on Zimbabwe Newsy will be taking a look at the role and influence of the West in Zimbabwe and their aims to help a failing country under a fanatic leader.

President Robert Mugabe initially received praise for his strong leadership when he first took office in the early 80s.  Now, the West is doing what they can to see Mugabe share power with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the newly enacted coalition government.

In a speech given to the U.N. General Assembly this week, President Robert Mugabe said,

“We wonder what their motives are? And we ask what they would want to see us do.

Working strenuously to divide the parties in the inclusive government.  If they will not assist in rehabilitating our economy, could they please stop their filthy clandestine divisive antics.”

Mugabe goes on to state,

“…Where stand their humanitarian principles, we ask, when their illegal sanctions are ruining the lives of our children?”


And then asks for the sanctions on Cuba to be lifted as well.

In 2003 President George W. Bush put sanctions on Zimbabwe that included travel bans, freezing assets, and a ban on more than 250 Zimbabwean individuals and companies from doing business with the United States. The European Union has similar sanctions against the country

In an interview with CNN’s Chrisitane Amanpour last month, Robert Mugabe was asked how he was planning on correcting the current economic crisis, he replied:

“The sanctions … sanctions must be lifted.  And we should have no interference from outside.  The continued imperialistic interference in our affairs is affecting the country, obviously.”


Daily Nation


Other South African leaders are also asking for the sanctions to be lifted. Deputy President of South Africa defended the South Africa’s position, stating in Mail & Guardian,

“This call for the lifting of sanctions is not aimed at protecting and defending President Robert Mugabe as an individual.  It is meant to attract necessary investments into Zimbabwe so that their economic recovery plan can take effect.”


Mail & Guardian

In the meantime, Zimbabwe has found another country to help them out- China.  In July Tsvangirai stated Zimbabwe was able to secure lines of credit worth $950 million from country. Zimbabwe needs an estimated $8 billion to rebuild the country’s devastated economy. 

But recently President Robert Mugabe has been attempting to re-establish friendly relations with Western nations,

“Our country remains in a positive stance to enter into fresh, friendly and cooperate relations with all those countries that have been hostile to us in the past.”


BBC