Search

 

Cablegate: Gok Effort to Preserve Vital Forest Hits Political

VZCZCXRO8109
PP RUEHAST RUEHHM RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHPB RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHTM
DE RUEHNR #2710/01 3390636
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 040636Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY NAIROBI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7796
INFO RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC
RUEHC/DEPT OF INTERIOR WASHDC
RUEAEPA/HQ EPA WASHDC
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUEHDR/AMEMBASSY DAR ES SALAAM 6204
RUEHDJ/AMEMBASSY DJIBOUTI 5465

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 NAIROBI 002710

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/E, OES FOR ISABELLE DETWILER, OES/ENV, OES/EGC,
ADDIS FOR REO, LONDON, PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHERS

AGRICULTURE FOR US FOREST SERVICE

INTERIOR FOR US GEOLOGICAL SURVEY DR. JANE BELNAP

E.O.12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM KDEM ENRG SENV SOCI KE
SUBJECT: GOK EFFORT TO PRESERVE VITAL FOREST HITS POLITICAL
OBSTACLES

REF: NAIROBI 2220 AND PREVIOUS

-------
Summary
-------

1. The Kenyan government's (GOK) attempt to preserve and
restore the environmentally and economically important Mau
Forest Complex (the Mau Forest) by evicting legal and
illegal settlers (reftel) has caused political problems
within Prime Minister Raila Odinga's Orange Democratic
Movement (ODM) party. ODM Members of Parliament from the
Kipsigis community - which would be most affected by the
evictions - have threatened to withdraw support for Odinga
unless either the evictions are stopped or alternate land
is provided to both legal and illegal settlers. Evictions
planned for October have been delayed until a study group
reports in January 2009 its recommendations on how to
proceed. In the meantime, Odinga has rallied other ODM
constituencies who have significant interests in restoring
the Mau Forest watershed to support the evictions. We
believe that Odinga is succeeding in isolating opponents of
the evictions, and that the evictions will take place in
return for an increased offer of alternative land.
Odinga's patient and principled stand on the issue is
commendable and will help protect Kenya's increasingly
distressed water supply. End Summary.

--------------
The Mau Forest
--------------

2. The Mau Forest watershed comprises about 400,000
hectares beginning near Narok Town in Rift Valley Province
and extending west toward the Lake Victoria region. Rivers
flowing from the Mau Forest are part of the Nile basin, on
which Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan, and Egypt depend. It is a
significant water source for the Rift Valley and western
Kenya, providing water for drinking and agricultural use
for approximately 15 per cent of Kenya's population.
Rivers flowing from the Mau Forest feed the Maasai Mara
nature preserve, Kenya's most lucrative source of tourism
revenue, as well as the Serengeti National Park in
neighboring Tanzania. They also feed Lake Nakuru, another
significant source of tourism revenue, and other major
lakes in the Rift Valley as well as several power
generation plants.

--------------------------------
Land Policies Threaten Watershed
--------------------------------

3. The Mau Forest was traditionally home to small hunter-
gatherer communities, known collectively as the Ogiek. The
Ogiek did not live in permanent settlements and their
footprint on the Mau Forest was minimal. The current
problems of the Mau Forest date to the 1990s, when the
administration of former President Daniel Arap Moi
converted large tracts of the Mau Forest Reserve land to
farmland and allocated title to politicians as a reward for
supporting the regime. The Moi-era conversion resulted in
an influx of three types of settlers: a group who bought
land from politicians who received it from Moi; a second
group who bought additional plots which had been excised
from the Mau Forest by corrupt land officials; and a third
group of squatters who had no plausible claim to any land.
The majority of settlers were ethnic Kipsigis, whose
burgeoning population was stressing land in their native
South Rift Valley. However, Kikuyu and Maasai also settled
in the Mau Forest during this time.

4. In contrast to the traditional inhabitants, the new
settlers cleared large tracts of the forest for agriculture
and to make charcoal, a cheap and common fuel in Kenya. In
addition, illegal logging became rampant. The GOK estimates
that approximately 25 percent of the Mau Forest has been
lost over the past 20 years. Precipitation levels have
fallen with the loss of forest cover, with additional

NAIROBI 00002710 002 OF 003


negative consequences.

5. The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP)
estimates that Kenya loses nearly $300 million annually due
to the degradation of the Mau and other forests. The
livelihoods of thousands of people in the region, as well
as the flora and fauna in ecosystems such as the Mara
Conservancy are at risk. Reduced water flows from the Mau
Forest have impacted a major electricity generation project
at Sondu Miriu, allowing only one of two turbines to be put
into service. If no action is taken to address falling
water levels, the fate of two planned hydro-electric power
projects is also at risk. Rivers flowing from the complex
to Lake Nakuru and the Maasai Mara are drying up, putting
the region's lucrative tourism industry at risk. The Kenya
Wildlife Service estimates that Lake Nakuru may dry up in
eight years if urgent measures to restore the watershed are
not taken. Other lakes affected are Baringo, Bogoria,
Natron and Turkana. Sudan and Egypt will also suffer from
decreased water flowing from the Mau Forest.

----------------------------
Prior Attempt to Evict Fails
----------------------------

6. During President Kibaki's first term the Kenyan
government (GOK) acknowledged the need to protect the Mau
Forest. President Kibaki commissioned a report on illegal
land allocations in 2004, which concluded that, although
the transfers had followed legal procedure they were ill-
informed. Based on this report, the government attempted
to evict Mau Forest settlers in 2005. However, political
pressure brought by the affected communities and protests
by human rights groups due to the lack of alternate land
allocations for those to be evicted forced the government
to drop plans to evict settlers.

--------------------
Odinga to the Rescue
--------------------

7. Early Prime Minister Odinga recognized the importance of
preserving and restoring the Mau Forest to Kenya's economic
and environmental wellbeing. In July, Odinga, along with
John Michuki, the Minister for Environment and Natural
Resources (Party of National Unity-PNU), and Noah Wekesa,
the Minister of Forestry (PNU), convened a stakeholders'
conference including representatives of various ministries,
UNEP and environmental conservation organizations which
concluded that the Mau Forest must be protected and
restored. As a result of this forum, Odinga constituted a
21-member task force to relocate 1,960 people whose title
deeds the government regarded as genuine. The task force
would then work with local communities to demarcate and
fence off the area from which that population was to be
evicted. The evictions were to begin on October 30.

8. Odinga's support for evictions was opposed by a number
of Kalenjin ODM Members of Parliament from Rift Valley
Province. The most vocal opponents of the eviction are
from the Kispigis sub-clan of the Kalenjin, who constitute
the majority of Mau Forest settlers. Kipsigis ODM MPs have
demanded that the evictions either be stopped or that the
government provide alternative land to both legal and
illegal settlers. They have mobilized residents of the Mau
Forest to resist attempts to evict them. Kipsigis leaders
have also linked the evictions with lingering
dissatisfaction on the number of Kipsigis included in the
Cabinet. As a result, they have threatened to leave the
ODM if their demands are not met. ODM leaders from other
Kalenjin sub-clans have shown solidarity for the Kipsigis'
stand, complicating matters further for Odinga.

9. With PNU-controlled ministries driving the evictions
and opposition to the plan led by ODM politicians, the
Prime Minister has been forced to take the lead in pushing
the project through. Odinga's response has been to assuage
Kipsigis leaders by delaying implementation of the

NAIROBI 00002710 003 OF 003


evictions combined with the formation of a study group to
determine how to best proceed. This group is expected to
report its conclusions in January 2009. Odinga also worked
to undercut support for the Kipsigis leaders, however.
Minister for Lands James Orengo (ODM) impugned the motives
of the Kipsigis leadership, stating that several had
benefited from the Moi-era land allocation and then sold on
their parcels to those now facing eviction.

10. Odinga has rallied the Maasai community to speak out in
favor of the evictions. (Note: The Maasai-dominated Narok
County administers the area surrounding the Mau Forest.
Its main income generator, the Maasai Mara nature reserve,
is threatened by the degradation of the Mau Forest. End
Note.) In November, the influential Minister of Cultural
Affairs and National Heritage, William Ole Ntimama (ODM),
criticized the Kipsigis (and other Kalenjin leaders who
have been railing against Odinga on this and other issues)
as shortsighted and selfish.

11. Ntimama's criticism was followed by a proxy battle
between the Narok County Council, which is controlled by
allies of Ntimama, and the Kipsigis County Council which is
controlled by allies of the leader of the Kipsigis ODM MPs,
Julius Kones. In mid-November, the Narok County Council
threatened to evict squatters from the land if the GOK
failed to take action. The Kipsigis County Council issued a
statement calling Narok County's threat an incitement to
tribal clashes in the area. In late November, Odinga
convened a meeting of ODM leaders to discuss the Mau Forest
evictions and a range of other issues in which the Kalenjin
(and others) were resisting Odinga's leadership. After
Odinga's meeting, the Kipsigis leaders toned down their
rhetoric and have shown a willingness to go along with
evictions if the government offers alternate land to both
legal and illegal settlers.

-------
Comment
-------

12. The economic and environmental facts present a strong
argument for action to preserve the Mau Forest. Odinga's
steady support for preservation and restoration of the Mau
Forest appears, to his credit, to be motivated by a genuine
desire to do what is best for Kenya, despite the possible
political cost to him and his party. By effectively
isolating opponents of the evictions, Odinga is
demonstrating, once again, his political and strategic
skills. We are optimistic that evictions will take place
in 2009. Post will continue to follow the issue closely,
both as an indicator of Odinga's leadership as well as a
test case for how the government deals with sensitive land
issues. End Comment.
RANNEBERGER

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Rohingya Muslims Massacred: Restrictions On Aid Put 1000s At Risk

Amnesty: The Myanmar authorities’ restrictions on international aid in Rakhine state is putting tens of thousands of lives at risk in a region where mainly Rohingya people are already suffering horrific abuses from a disproportionate military campaign. More>>

ALSO:

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

ALSO:

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC