Kenyan archbishop backs forest evictions

 

Kenyan archbishop backs forest evictions

Author: 

George Conger

The primate of Kenya has urged the government to restore order in the Mau Forest after tribal clashes in Narok and Nakuru counties left 3 dead and drove over 400 people from their homes.

The clashes come in the wake of the government’s eviction from the Mau Forest of squatters. The state forest is one of Kenya’s principle watersheds. It has suffered extensive damage from farmers from outside the region moving into the forest to claim land. Felling trees and clearing brush has damaged the water supply for the region, prompting state actions to preserve the aquifer.

In Nakuru county on the edge of the Eastern Mau Forest clashes between indigenous tribesmen and settlers erupted on Wednesday night. The Nation reported that rival groups clashed under the cover of darkness, attacking each other with bows and arrows. Earlier in the week In Norok County a 17-year old herding cattle was wounded by an arrow in a clash between migrant herders and indigenous farmers.

In a television interview on K24 broadcast on 13 Sept 2018, the Most Rev. Jackson Ole Sapit urged a halt to the violence. The Kenyan archbishop stated that Kenyan citizens were free to live anywhere in Kenya, but urged the government to “look into the issues surrounding” the violence, and resolve the dispute “without favor” to any group and to “come to the bottom of the matter of what is making those communities fight one another.”

Archbishop Ole Sapit has backed the government’s expulsion of squatters from the forest. Speaking to reporters after a service last month at St Stephen’s Cathedral in Kisumu, the Archbishop urged the government “not to relent in the preservation of the Mau Forest and any other forests in this country because without the preservation of nature we will not have a future.”

However, he urged the government to take care in how it managed the eviction, so as to avoid setting the indigenous forest dwellers against recent migrants.  

“Preservation of that forest should not be politicised or ethnicised in any way. Already we can see politicians from certain communities coming out to politicise this issue as if the forest belongs to a particular community,” Archbishop Ole Sapit said.

Kenya’s natural resources belonged to the nation and all its people, not to any one tribe the archbishop said.

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