Kenya seeks to resolve forest stalemate ahead of deadline

Members of the Sengwer community, who live in Embobut Forest in Elgeyo-Marakwet County protest against evictions.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

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Kenya races against time to unlock a row surrounding the Sh3.6 billion funding for an environmental conservation project in the country’s two major water sources as the deadline draws closer.

Kenya Forest Service guards had been accused of using excessive force during evictions intended to pave the way for a European Union-funded project seeking to protect water catchment areas in the Western Kenya region.

European Union (EU) Ambassador to Nairobi Simon Mordue had in June given the government until September 20 to resolve issues raised by members of the minority Sengwer community. Failure to do so would lead to the withdrawal of funds for the Water Towers Protection and Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation.

But, with less than a month to the deadline, the HealthyNation has  established that the government is yet to meet the EU’s demands though it is renegotiating the deal.

Resettle dwellers

Speaking when he presided over a teaser tree planting marathon challenge at Kaptagat, Elgeyo-Marakwet County, Environment Principal Secretary Chris Kiptoo expressed optimism that the country will not lose the funding.

According to the PS, one of the contentious issues raised by the Sengwer was resettlement. Though the ministry has decided to resettle forest dwellers, not only in Embobut but also others including the Ogiek community in the Mau, the process awaits the Cabinet’s nod.

"A task force formed by the CS has finalised its work and we have gone through the internal procedure of the government and now, we are waiting for the Cabinet to make a decision. The President is very keen on addressing historical injustices,” said Dr Kiptoo. “We have been collaborating well with the EU ambassador.”