NEWS 2009

United Press International, Inc.

November 15, 2009

Kenya may evict people from ancestral land

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- The Kenyan government intends to evict 10,000 Ogiek people from their ancestral home in the Mau Forest, an Ogiek leader said.

Because of political schemes during the past 15 years, during which the government in Nairobi, Kenya, essentially gave pieces of forest land to well connected people, 25 percent of the trees have been cut down, leading to climate change, dried-up lakes and drought, The New York Times reported Sunday.

Drought, in turn, meant that when Nairobi -- which relies on hydropower for its electricity -- lost both its drinking water and its electricity this summer, the resulting blackout may have led to the spike in crime and unemployment, the newspaper said.

"Tell (U.S. President Barack) Obama and his men to help us. It's not that we're special, but this forest is our home," said Daniel M. Kobei, an Ogiek leader.

The Kenyan government, attempting to reverse the situation, wants to eject the Ogiek so it can plant millions of trees, the newspaper reported. The Ogiek say the move is intended to increase lumber production.

"The government wants that forest for economic reasons, not conservation reasons. The only people who are going to benefit are the saw-millers," said Towett Kimaiyo, an Ogiek leader.