It is almost three weeks since a large-scale war started in the Tigray region of Ethiopia involving a multitude of internal actors and external military players. That this is happening in a country where the African Union (AU) is rooted, with its overarching slogan ‘silencing the guns in Africa’, is puzzling, to say the least.
The Mau forest & the task force report
Composed of 22 different stretches of forest that lie on both sides of
the Rift Valley, the Mau complex covers a vast area amounting to
400,000 hectares – making it by far Kenya’s largest forested zone. It
is also its most important water supply, with rivers flowing out to
supply Lake Victoria in the west, as well as to Lake Turkana in the
Last year, prime minister Raila Odinga set up a task force to investigate the causes of the ongoing destruction of the Mau complex and to recommend how to conserve it. When it completed its report in June this year, the task force painted a grim picture of the environmental consequences of the decade-long destruction of the Mau complex.
In all, a quarter of the Mau complex has already been encroached on and/or destroyed, says the task force report. The consequences of the settlement and destruction include:?
• the likely disappearance of some rivers and lakes, which in turn could imperil close to 30m people in East Africa; ?
• declining agricultural productivity, notably in the tea sector; ?
• endangered wildlife, leading to a possible permanent disappearance of national wildlife reserves such as the Maasai Mara and Lake Nakuru National Park.
Among the hardest-hit activities is hydroelectric output. As the rivers rising from the Mau forest continue to dry up, hydroelectric power output, of which the Mau complex of rivers accounts for half of the national supply, will progressively decline.
The task force also noted that most, if not all, the acquisitions of land in the area were illegal and recommended that all settlers be evicted from the Mau complex as soon as possible. On 9 September Kenya’s parliament adopted the report, meaning the prime minister’s newly-formed Mau Secretariat has executive and parliamentary power to evict settlers.