Even though to the naked eye it may look like an issue of two groups fighting for on how to conserve the Mau forest, there are even deeper and more critical factors behind the current heated debate on Mau Forest conservation. The growing Kipsigis population in Maasai land as well as 2022 politics in Narok county has been brought in the spotlight. .At the center of this debate is the Maasai-Mau Trustland.
The Maasai Mau was initially a trust land under the defunct Narok County Council.Traditionally, the forest has been inhabited by the Ogiek. However, due to immigration from other ethnic groups, large parts of the forest area were cleared for settlement. The forest was set up for destruction by powerful Maasai elite who were allocated thousands of acres of land through group ranches.
It started during Kanu era.In 2008, there was a political row over the resettlement of people in the Mau Forest. They had been allocated land during the Kanu-era in the 1980s and 1990s. In 2004, the famous Ndungu Report listed these land allocations, terming them illegal and recommended their revocation of them.Some evictions were done between 2004 and 2006 without a resettlement option.
In July 2008, the Kibaki regime through the then Prime Minister Raila Odinga ordered another eviction to be effected by October 2008 in order to protect the forest from destruction.The order was opposed by several Rift Valley politicians, led by Isaac Ruto.William Ruto, who was then Agriculture Minister proposed evictees be allocated land elsewhere.Later, Environment Minister John Michuki would reverse the order leaving Raila with egg on the face and a huge political liabilty.
There are concerns among Maasai leaders that the number of Kipsigis in Narok is growing at an alarming rate and may pass their population.It is this concern thatbthey want Kipsigis out of the county. There has been word going round that the Kipsigis have been planning to field one of their own as governor in the county.