The land occupied by 60,000 squatters in Mau is neither gazetted as a forest nor a water catchment area under the Kenya Forestry Service, former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto has said.

Mr Ruto, who has been involved in talks to try and resolve the forest dispute over the past 10 years, believes the government is illegally “interfering with people’s land”.

“I have been against issues being pushed down from the top because I’d like a situation of clear discussion and engagement between the government and the local community,” he said in a interview with K24 TV on Sunday.

“This has never happened [even] once in the last 10 years. These engagements should involve leaders from Narok, Baringo, Kericho, Bomet and Nakuru.”

Back in 2009, ODM leader Raila Odinga’s task force noted that there is a distinction between the land available for settlement, part of which went to group ranches, forested land and water catchment areas to be conserved for common good.

But according to Mr Ruto, this was just an opinion of the taskforce, which should have been acted upon to show which areas of the Maasai Mau are critical for water-catchment.