Kipchumba Murkomen, the Elgeyo-Marakwet senator, is a University of Nairobi law graduate who has risen from grass to grace.
As the Senate Majority Leader, the 40-year-old senator, ranks as the second-in-command after Deputy President (DP) William Ruto among Kalenjin’s most influential leaders.
A close ally of Ruto, Murkomen fights tooth and nail for the deputy president’s interests and never shies away from conflict, whether it is on Twitter, Facebook or in political rallies.
But following the handshake between opposition leader Raila Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta last year, the Elgeyo-Marakwat leader seems to have thrown caution to the wind.
Last year, he sensationally claimed that some unnamed people at State House were plotting to stop Ruto from succeeding his boss in 2022. The Jubilee Party has been divided since the handshake, and two groups, dubbed Kieleweke and Tanga Tanga have emerged. Kieleweke seeks to derail Ruto’s plan to ascend to the Presidency in 2022 while Tanga Tanga wants to make Ruto presidency possible.
It is such a background that the second phase of Mau evictions was announced, causing the ongoing political storm.
Last week, Murkomen dismissed Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko and Rift Valley administrator George Natembeya for purporting to kick out Mau Forest dwellers.
“The truth is … that the Cabinet has not decided on eviction of anybody and neither does the Jubilee government believe in eviction of its citizens. This is a decision made by a single Cabinet secretary and a regional commissioner who are determined to act on an illegality,” Mr Murkomen said.
He accused CS Tobiko of acting without the sanction of the Cabinet but the Government Spokesman Cyrus Oguna defended the CS, saying the evictions would continue as planned.
The Mau evictions seemed to present another opportunity for Murkomen to court more controversy following his stance on the Arror and Kimwarer dams scandal.
As the Director of Prosecution rounded up suspects for charging over the loss of billions in the phantom dam projects, Mr Murkomen claimed that no money had been lost.
He termed the prosecution of the suspects as just another ploy to frustrate DP Ruto.
Reportedly, Murkomen’s comments continued to weaken his already fragile relationship Elgeyo-Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos.
And as the Mau eviction issue hots up, the vocal senator will feature on K24’s Punchline show on Sunday to unpack just what has been happening in the Mau Forest Complex and why he thinks it is just another plot to fight his ally, Ruto.
The Maasai Mau land, from which the settlers are being kicked out, is part of the largest single block of close-canopy forest in the region.
According to the Maasai Mau Forest Status Report, the destruction of 14,805 hectares of forest cover outside the Maasai Mau between 1973 and 1986 prompted the establishment of the Ntutu Commission.
The Maasai Mau forest is 46,241 hectares or about 10 percent of the Mau Forest complex, and by 2008, United Nation Environment Programme estimated that 19,300 hectares of the forest were impacted by illegal logging, settlement and fires.
By 2005, the government had evicted over 10,000 people from the Mau, part of whom were bona fide purchasers of the land.
The legal acquisition of the land was irregular, therefore the government agreed to compensate those who bought land. This process never materialized.
Following the failure to pay the Mau settlers, the government adopted a new policy in 2003, that the people who settled in the forest did so illegally and their title deeds should be cancelled.
But the former Commissioner of Lands, Sammy Mwaita, who dished out land in the Mau Forest Complex remaineds unapologetic, saying he followed prevailing procedures and regulations.
The evictions, which target about 60,000 people — a figure that has been disputed with some saying it is only 10,000 — has split opinion down the middle.