Netizen 24 KEN: Ruto should be careful with new environmental onslaught

Diposting oleh On 03.31

Ruto should be careful with new environmental onslaught

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Ruto should be careful with new environmental onslaught
Deputy President William Ruto and CS Environment Forestry Keriako Tobiko, Chair Green Belt Movement Mrs Marion Wakanyi Kamau (left) during the launch of the Forest Resources Management and Logging Activities Task Force at his Karen Office. /DPPSDeputy President William Ruto and CS Environment Forestry Keriako Tobiko, Chair Green Belt Movement Mrs Marion Wakanyi Kamau (left) during the launch of the Forest Resources Management and Logging Activities Task Force at his Karen Office. /DPPS

Mwalimu Julius Nyerere often told a story of how in a certain poor village, the people were struck by famine and had to come together to find a solution.

Facing imminent death from starvation, they agreed that they would choose the strongest among them to walk to distant villages to find relief for them.

They agreed they would give him the little food they had so that he would accomplish the mission and return to save the village.

The story is often used to motivate those going away to college, leaving the village for distant lands to return and help the villagers, because, as Hillary Clinton observed, it takes a village to raise a child in Africa. But the story also has obje ct lessons for politics.

We send a representative to a far-off land (the National Assembly / Senate) to bring resources to us so that we can better our lives.

Politics is really about resources. We, therefore, choose the strongest among us, send him up â€" but if he fails to do so, we must choose another.


When Raila Odinga became Prime Minister in 2008, he did not benefit from the wisdom in this parable. He set forth and removed squatters in the vast Mau Complex to save the threatened catchment.

What he did was right for Mother Nature, but it proved disastrous for his politics. He rightly chose to protect the Mau, but had possibly miscalculated the aftermath. Again, since blunders are never too far from Railapolitik, he was reminded that he should have first sought alternative land for the Mau evictees or established a programme for sustainable afforestation before going in for the people.

Indeed, after they wer e evicted, not much afforestation took place after all, leaving many to wonder whether it was really worth it. He lost in 2013, as the people of Rift Valley never forgave him for it.

Besides, he chose to take up an assignment handed to him by President Mwai Kibaki which, with hindsight, was designed to destroy him politically. Why wouldn’t Kibaki do it now that he was not seeking re-election? There was also a substantive Environment minister (the late John Michuki) and a Forestry minister (Noah Wekesa), who should have done it.

However, he chose to run the gamut and personally oversee the evictions.

But what irked many was that the evictions were particularly ruthless. We were treated to images of little children on the roadside staying in makeshift structures that could barely endure the rain, let alone the biting Mau cold. Raila, blind to the bigger picture, had swallowed the bait. He was caught, and gutted.


The political fallout that followed shocked even his worst detractors. These people had voted for him to a man in 2007, but now, they wanted nothing to do with the man.

William Ruto took advantage of the humanitarian crisis precipitated by the evictions, wiping out whatever political capital Raila had built in the Rift Valley.

With Raila diminished, he romped into power with Uhuru Kenyatta. Their current political position can be traced back to the political journey that began with the Mau evictions of 2008.

It is, therefore, understandable that when he picked up the gauntlet over the preservation of the Mau ecosystem, Raila felt vindicated that he was right all along. He has bitterly accused Ruto of insincerity and having made great political capital of his sincere desire to protect the environment. Ruto was ill at ease trying to defend his own record with the environment.


In his time, Raila acted out of pres sure from the dry spell that had ravaged the nation. Downstream communities such as the Maasai were bearing the brunt of the destruction of the forest, forcing them to go farther in search of pasture.

The Mara River â€" important to tourism â€" was also threatened. It later turned out that it was not the communities that lived in the forest that were to blame. In fact, the worst people were the loggers and charcoal burners who are fast decimating not just the Mau but other forests and water towers.

The people Raila evicted from the Mau forest, forest dwellers who have lived in the Mau forest since time immemorial, may have actually been protecting the forest.

The problem was actually deeper than what Raila was aware of. And it has been here much longer â€" even being the subject of hot debate at the Kenya Land Commission chaired by William Morris Carter in 1932.


Uhuru has now decided that the Mau needs protection. He has instructed Ruto to take up the matter. Indeed, he appointed Keriako Tobiko, a Maasai as Environment minister. This is a community that heavily depends on the Mau remaining healthy.

However, there is another reason for Uhuru’s renewed interest in the Mau. The Itare Dam, which is domiciled right in the middle of the Mau Complex, is meant to divert water for Nakuru and Naivasha towns. This requires the goodwill of the host Kalenjin and the Maasai communities.

The Itare Dam has also been said to supply water to certain interests that Uhuru has in Naivasha, as well as the intended Inland Container Depot.

It was, therefore, important that a Maasai be in charge of the Environment docket and another Kalenjin, Simon Chelugui, be in charge of Water resources. Uhuru has his generals in formation. But what about the political ramifications?


Perhaps the political ramifications of the decision to protect the Mau is yet to unfold, but Ruto must be very careful lest he falls in the same trap Raila fell into in 2013. Unlike Raila, this is his own community that sent him to the distant lands (national government) to get them as much resources as possible. They should not, therefore, suffer in the hands of their trusted son.

If indeed there are evictions to be done, then the political buck will stop in the hands of Ruto. The Maasai will be looking at what he does with the Mau. He has insisted he wants humane evictions if need be. The Kipsigis will also be looking very closely. If he turns out to be the kid who went to the big city and returned with a big stick to drive them out, then the matter could get out of hand for him in 2022.

Already, he has promised the creation of the Sh20 billion Soin-Koru Dam, which will serve the drier parts of the Kipsigis to generate hydropower and control flooding downstream. Evictions, however, tend to destroy political capital for any party.


Ruto has rightly identified the real culprits of environmental destruction â€" loggers (legal or otherwise) and charcoal burners. The individuals behind this are well-connected fat cats who do not even live within 100 miles of the Mau. The ban on charcoal from Kitui County has caused rioting in Nakuru County â€" 200 miles away and an agitated Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu is taking on his Kitui counterpart Charity Ngilu in what appears to be pressure from powerful cartels. Charcoal is big business â€" much bigger business than we care to admit.

Historian Charles Hornsby in his book Kenya: A History Since Independence states that in 1972, Vice President Daniel Moi was involved in a scandal, shipping charcoal to Saudi Arabia together with Nicholas Biwott. Well, the two clearly understood that energy was the driver of the future and so ‘diversified’ into the oil business through Kenol-Kobil.


With the impending exploitation of coal deposits in the Mui Basin, Kenya should focus this coal on domestic (household) consumption to reduce dependence on charcoal. They have been thinking of using it to generate electricity, but that is not clean renewable energy. Other than that, they should reduce the cost of cooking gas by 70 per cent to encourage the utilization of the commodity now that we have substantial deposits near Tanzania and also here in Kenya. This will also reduce the usage of kerosene for energy.

Kenya should also go ahead with nuclear generation so that the cost of electricity goes down by significant percentages. It is clear that the loan-ridden KenGen cannot provide us with sufficient clean energy, vide geo-thermal power, and neither will we meet national demand through Turkana Wind or the failing hydropower. There is need for nucleur, if we are to save the Mau from charcoal burners. Ruto controls the Energy docke t and clearing the problem falls really at his desk.

If he takes urgent steps to make sure each home in Kenya has enough gas and electricity, he can comfortably relax, knowing he will have met the dream of the villagers who had sent their son to a distant land and who came back with the goodies.

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