Published: Sunday 15 April 2001

A government proposal threaten (Credit: ANIL AGARWAL / CSE) Environmentalists in Kenya have decided to file a lawsuit against the government on charges of deforestation. The forest forum sub-committee, an umbrella organisation of environmentalists, wants the government to annul its proposal to use 67,582 hectares of forestland in Rift Valley and central provinces for farming activities.

Francis Nyenze, the country's minister for environment had in February 2001 given a 28-day notice of intent to allocate the land. "Most of what we have allotted is not forest, the forest was cleared a long time ago," Nyenze said. But environmentalists say the move is at odds with government policy. "It is colliding with the Environment Act, and our environmental policy," said James Kamula, a member of the Kenya Forests Working Group.

The sub-committee announced that it had resolved to file suits against the government. The government's proposal to allot nearly one-eight of the country's total forest area has not only been contentious but also provoked public outrage, leading to the arrest of activist Wangari Maathai. After being held for a day without being charged in a court of law, Maathai was set free as politicians and environmental activists pressed for her release. Meanwhile, Kenya's national environment management committee has advised Nyenze to set up a ministerial committee to handle the contentious issue.

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