Nairobi, March 6 2019 – The East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS) and its sub-committee, the Kenya Forests Working Group (KFWG), have noted with concern media reports of forestland being allocated to squatters in different parts of the country in recent weeks. The National Land Commission (NLC) reportedly approved the allocations.

EAWLS and KFWG cannot vouch for the accuracy of the reported issuance of forestland. However, we would like to state that it would be ironic that a country that has seen major damage to its forests over the years and, as a result, has expressed its commitment to increasing forest cover to 10 per cent would, in the same breath, be allowing people to settle in the same forests.

The press reports state that NLC had “directed” that about 419.5 acres of Kamiti Forest in Kiambu Country be given away to long-term squatters on the forestland. The squatters claim that the forestland was given to them by now retired president Daniel arap Moi in the 1990s. The Commission is also reported to have awarded 10,000 acres of Mount Kenya Forest to a group of people in Tharaka-Nithi County. In the Masai Mau Forest, members of the Ogiek community have reportedly been allowed to settle in part of the forest.

While denying that a part of the Kamiti Forest had been allocated to a community, the Kenya Forest Service stated in a press release on March 4 that under the Forest Conservation and Management Act, “degazzettment (of a forest) is by petition to the National Assembly or the Senate on the recommendation of the Service.” That then begs a couple of questions. Who then degazetted the forests to allow the ostensible allocations to proceed? Can the NLC give away forestland that has not been degazetted? It might be worth mentioning that the term of the previous Commission expired recently and it is therefore not clear when the directives purporting to allocate forestland were issued.

Answers or clarifications to this matter need to come from the National Land Commission and the Ministry of Lands.

“EAWLS and KFWG are calling on the relevant authorities to shed more light on the alleged forestland allocations or the government’s commitment to reforestation and its ongoing tree-planting initiatives risk suffering from a public perception that they lack seriousness,” said Nancy Ogonje, EAWLS Executive Director.