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6/12/2006

How Top Officials Conspired to Grab Chunks of Forestland

Filed under: kenya — admin @ 4:34 pm

Thousands of acres of Mau Forest are now in private hands following a shady deal involving top Government officials and well connected individuals.

Investigations reveal that Government surveyors and other officials conspired to acquire forestland by illegally extending the boundaries of five group ranches neighbouring Mau forest.

This eventually led to loss of 14,103 hectares of forestland, which the rogue officers sold and issued the beneficiaries with fake title deeds without involving relevant Government departments.

A report compiled after the investigation says the officials subsequently prepared new forest maps to conceal their actions. However, the Government has dismissed the fake maps and is now drawing new ones.

The report, Maasai Mau Status Report, is authored by the Kenya Wildlife Service, the United Nations Environment Programme, the Ewaso Ngiro South Development Authority and the Kenya Forests Working Group.

Illegal settlement

It recommends the prosecution of Government officials – including surveyors, land registrars and district commissioners – who it says flouted the law to illegally subdivide the forest and give it out to individuals.

The Director of Survey, Joseph Mathenge, confirmed that eight officials, including three former land registrars, were under investigations and are likely to be charged.

Mathenge confirmed that the report’s findings tally with investigations by the Survey of Kenya. He said the Criminal Investigations Department was on the trail of some of the officials, who have now gone underground.

The officials’ actions led to invasion of Mau Forest by over 10,000 people, who the Government evicted last year. The report covers Maasai Mau, which straddles Narok District and is part of the Mau Forest Complex, one of Kenya’s biggest but fast disappearing forests.

The illegal settlement opened the forest to human activity and seriously affected the source of water to millions of people living around the forest.

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