Karoney and Tobiko differ on Mau title deeds
The Mau Forest evictions have taken a new turn after two ministers contradicted each other over the legality of title deeds issued to those claiming land in the forest.
The government took the decision to evict settlers from Mau Forest and other public forests in a bid to conserve one of the country’s largest water towers and improve its tree cover.
Whereas Environment and Natural Resources Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko says Mau title deeds were issued fraudulently, his Lands colleague Faridah Karoney disagrees.
Ms Karoney appeared before a joint sitting of the National Assembly committees on Lands and Environment Wednesday on the variation of 4,607 hectares of Mt Elgon forest.
She faulted Mr Tobiko, saying the process of invalidating a title deed is clear.
“The status of Mau titles is what we are looking at within the government,” Ms Karoney told the lawmakers.
“There is a way of cancelling a title. I cannot just announce that they are fraudulent.”
Ms Karoney was responding to a question from Kipkelion West MP Hillary Kosgey, who wanted to know the process of invalidating titles, given that they were issued by the government.
The CS told the MPs that the government has formed a joint team from the ministries of Lands and Environment to audit titles held by those claiming ownership of part of Mau forest.
When he appeared before the Environment Committee last week, Mr Tobiko said the titles in possession of the evictees “are just pieces of paper because they were issued fraudulently”.
Normally, the Cabinet is guided by the principal of collective responsibility, in which ministers should publicly support government decisions made at Cabinet level even if they do not agree with them.
The contradictory statements by the two Cabinet secretaries caught the committee members by surprise.
Environment Committee chairman Kareke Mbiuki said the ministers are confused.
“We are at a loss because your colleague has already made up his mind. Is his ministry part of the team you are talking about?” Mr Mbiuki asked.
Ms Karoney chose not to give an answer.
“I wish your counterpart in Environment was a bit conservative with his words. What we know is that title deeds are not wooden or metallic,” Mr Mbiuki said.
He added that the panel should find a way of penalising ministers who mislead House committees and Kenyans.