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Rogue police officers lead plunder of the Mau Forest

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Rogue police officers lead plunder of the Mau Forest by Kenyans247(1): Sun 08, November, 2020 08:04am
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In most cases, the cedar posts are transported from Narok South through Sogoo, Tendwet, Kimuchul, Chemaner, Kembu, Longisa, Bomet and Sotik road where they find their way to counties in Nyanza region.
On June 3, last year, a lorry, GKB 447R, belonging to GSU, which was illegally ferrying 450 cedar posts was impounded at Kamusanga village along the Chebunyo-Kaboson road in Bomet County after it lost control and landed in a ditch.
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The arrest of a sub-county police commander, his official driver and the impounding of a police truck they were using to transport 750 illegally-harvested cedar posts has laid bare the role senior security officers play in plundering the Mau forest complex.

By fluke or a major a breakthrough in policing the forests, Kenya Forests Service (KFS) rangers had three hours earlier nabbed another truck belonging to the elite General Service Unit (GSU) Anti-Stock Theft Unit (ASTU), which was ferrying 800 cedar posts illegally harvested from Mau forest.

The twin arrests have unearthed routes and tactics used by police working in cahoots with illegal loggers to plunder the forest which the government has gone to great lengths to protect in the past two decades.

Narok South sub-county police commander Ezekiel Kiche – a senior superintendent of police (SSP) and David Maina — a police constable — were nabbed by hawk-eyed KFS rangers led by Chief Inspector Evans Ontiri as they transported the posts using a lorry, GKB 008R, at 4am on Thursday.


The incident occurred one kilometre from Longisa trading centre along the Mulot-Bomet highway, with the posts said to have originated from Narok and destined for a timber yard in the neighbouring Nyamira County.

A few hours earlier, police constable Eliud Yator was flagged down and arrested by KFS rangers at Masese village in Bomet Central sub-county as he ferried 800 cedar posts along the Kiptagich–Silibwet highway using a police lorry, GKB 960T.

The timber is said to have been sourced from the Kuresoi South constituency side of the Mau forest in Nakuru County and was destined for a timber yard in Kisii County.

Mr Keriako Tobiko, the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources, had hardly a week earlier conducted a tree planting exercise at Mau forest complex in Narok South in a bid to rehabilitate the complex after 60,000 families who had allegedly encroached on the forest land were evicted.

It is instructive to note that the police trucks used to ferry the forest products are fueled and serviced by the government using taxpayers' money.

On June 3, last year, a lorry, GKB 447R, belonging to GSU, which was illegally ferrying 450 cedar posts was impounded at Kamusanga village along the Chebunyo-Kaboson road in Bomet County after it lost control and landed in a ditch.

Three GSU officers who were on board – sergeant Albert Jillo, constable Carrey Oloo Omondi (driver) and a third one whose name was not revealed, and all of who were attached to the Anti-Stock Theft Unit (ASTU) J unit of the GSU at Nemsis village on the Bomet, Kisii and Narok counties’ border, were arrested.

“The accident occurred early in the morning and I understand it was transporting the posts to a farm in Kaboson. We are investigating the incident,” Mr Nelson Masai, the Chepalungu sub-county police commander, said at the time.

Residents of the area said it was a common sight for the lorry to be spotted in the area ferrying forest produce either late at night or early morning when people are asleep.


“The lorry is used thrice a week to ferry forest produce from Transmara sub-county in the neighbouring Narok County to Bomet, Kisii and Nyamira counties where there is a ready market,” said Mr Rueben Koech, a resident of Siongiroi in Bomet County.

It has emerged that the cedar posts are harvested by illegal loggers and transported at night to designated points in the edge of the Mau forest.

They are then picked at an appointed day and time at night by police trucks which are used to transport them to various market destinations in the neighbouring counties in the cover of darkness by armed policemen.

In some instances, police use the pretext that they have impounded the products and are taking them to court or police stations as exhibits, where suspects are alleged to have been taken to.

In most cases, the cedar posts are transported from Narok South through Sogoo, Tendwet, Kimuchul, Chemaner, Kembu, Longisa, Bomet and Sotik road where they find their way to counties in Nyanza region.

From Nakuru County, they are usually transported through Kiptagich -Masese- Silibwet highway where they are then sneaked out through Silibwet-Kapkwen–Kaplong–Sotik highway in Bomet County under the nose of police officers on night patrol.

Still, the forest products are also dumped in various sale yards in Bomet town, Mulot, Silibwet Chebunyo, Siongiroi , Kaplong and Sotik trading centres.

In Kericho County, the cedar posts are sold in Kericho town, Kapkatet, Kapsoit, Litein, Roret and Chepseon trading centres.

Some of the forest products which have illegally been offloaded to the market had been confiscated from dealers, but not surrendered to KFS as the suspects are released before being charged in court, in a scheme that has aided depletion of the Mau forest.

“Police have been actively involved in transporting cedar posts, timber and charcoal sourced from Mau forest complex especially in the last eight months when a curfew has been imposed over Covid-19 outbreak,” said Mr Paul Rono, an environmental activist in Bomet town.


Mr Rono says a cedar post used for fencing is sold for an average of Sh180 and Sh250 a piece once it is delivered by brokers in the South Rift region but the price is said to be higher outside the region.

Dr Julius Kamau, the Chief Conservator of Forests, says it does not matter the title one holds in government or standing in society as they will be held to account for destruction of forests in the country.

vkimutai@ke.nationmedia.com
https://nation.africa/kenya/news/-rogue-police-officers-lead-plunder-mau-forest-2925932

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