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Monday, December 7, 2009

Squatter Moi’s restraint over Mau is simply superhuman

Former President Daniel Moi is a man of deep compassion.

For more than a year, he has been restraining himself even as his hormones have raged for action over the Mau Forest controversy. He has watched in quiet dismay as political upstarts picked apart his handiwork in Mau Forest, that wild bush he tamed by settling landless squatters to slash and burn it.

All the while, no one told Mr Moi that he was parcelling out gazetted forestland. He has previously said that if the land in the Mau Complex was allocated, it was because forest officers failed to do their job. Bent officials flew the then President blindfolded in a military chopper, landed him at Bararget and asked him to hand out title deeds to squatters. Now that the deed is done, everyone has realised the benefits of it all.

Mr Moi brought the Mau into the 21st Century by settling numerous other development-conscious individuals in the forest, where they have built schools, hospitals, mansions, country homes and other amenities, thus providing employment and livelihoods to 0.5 per cent of the entire Kenyan population. Of course, being a squatter of no mean repute himself, Mr Moi acquired a modest 2,000 acres—a miniscule 0.25 per cent of the entire forest area—for agricultural development. Other dictators take a bigger percentage of national resources than one per cent, but not him. He would live by the sweat of his brow.

He cleared the 2,000 acres of the trees in order to plant tea. Tea bushes, when tended by a man of Mr Moi’s talents, can grow to the height of a eucalyptus tree. The tea is so green that the chlorophyll attracts convectional rain. Even the grass and potatoes bring rain, and ensure it rains close to the ground — where it is needed — instead of being lost some place mid-air.

Now, people are whining about a mere 12 rivers drying up in Kenya and Tanzania because of the environmentally friendly actions Mr Moi initiated.

As the former president rightly observes, not all the water in the world comes from the Mau. In fact, people should harvest the water so readily available in large bodies like the Indian Ocean and Lake Victoria — where it is lying idle and obviously going to waste through evaporation — and bring it to irrigate land.

Another man would have been consumed by righteous anger at the mere suggestion of undoing this work. Yet, even with the threat of taking away the land Mr Moi now owns, has developed and uses to employ thousands of otherwise jobless youth, he is silent. Mr Moi has restrained himself because of his love for children. If he hated children, he would have organised a militia of his own, planted the warriors in the forest and started a civil war — but that would be against the law!

There would be a tonne of trouble over the evictions. Perhaps he would have led demonstrations in the forest, where residents would strip the barks off the trees and use them as placards. Alternatively, the thousands of squatters in the forest would have seized another 100,000 hectares of land in addition to the portion they already have.

Or, as a professed Christian, Mr Moi would have led all the landowners to start a month-long fast that would have embarrassed the Government into backtracking on its foolhardy course of action.

Then, perhaps, he would have taken some unspecified action to bring the whole world to heel. He would have caused trouble by refusing to sell his tea to the international market. Every tea drinker from Iran to Britain would be shivering in winter, begging him for just a cuppa — but he would not budge. Back at home, the economy would shrink and shrivel like a mushroom in the sun. Since Mr Moi is no racist, not even a tribalist, he will continue to permit people to drink tea all over the world. After all, tea is better than water — any day.

If Moi did not love children, women, and men of all tribes and races, he would withhold his immense wisdom about the workings of the environment, gained from his personal push to create Nyayo Tea Zones in every forest.

If Moi hated children, he would not be restraining the country from making foolhardy decisions like creating two centres of power. It just increases the cost of corruption because you have to bribe the two centres simultaneously to remain untouchable. He would not be the spiritual leader of the movement to preserve Kenya as it is – unchanged in all respects from the prosperous nation over which he presided.

If Mr Moi did not love people, he would point out that he is not the only person who has handed out title deeds in the Mau. He would, acting out of spite, return all the property his detractors claim he does not rightfully own. Then what would happen to it? It would fall into waste through mismanagement.

Why, he could return to being an idle squatter demanding social protection funds. It would collapse this country.

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