Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

 

HISTORY OF KENYA                                                                                                                    6 Million years ago    In 2000 French researchers found bones in the Rift Valley of Central Kenya that they called their Millennial Ancestor and believed to be a direct precursor of humans. Dr. Martin Pickford and co-discoverers named the fossil Orrorin tugenensis (orrorin means original man in the Tugen language). The bones were found in the Lukeino Formation of the Tugen Hills.....

 

  1. Who are the Ogiek?
  2. What is the controversy surrounding the Ogiek?
  3. Do the Ogiek pose an environmental threat to the forest?
  4. What is the real threat to the Mau Forest?
  5. Are any other groups being displaced from the Mau Forest?
  6. Have the Ogiek petitioned the government for action?
  7. Have the Ogiek exhausted their legal options?
  8. What do the Ogiek want to do now?
  9. Who is supporting the Ogiek?
  10. How can I learn more about the Ogiek?
  11. Is there anything I can do to help the Ogiek?
  12. Why will my action make a difference?

Kenya map1. Who are the Ogiek?
The Ogiek are an indigenous people that live in and around the Mau Forest, an area of 900 square kilometers (550 square miles) about 200 kilometers (125 miles) northwest of Nairobi, the capital of Kenya and in the forests around Mt. Elgon at the border to Uganda.
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2. What is the controversy surrounding the Ogiek?
For decades, the Ogiek have fought with first the British colonial and then the Kenyan government over their right to inhabit the Mau Forest, where they have lived for hundreds of years. The Kenyan government insists that the area is a forest zone and environmentally protected under the Forest Act. Authorities have then ordered the Ogiek to leave the forest, saying that they had been allocated land years ago but had abandoned it and returned to the forest. The Ogiek believe that they have a right to live in what they consider to be their ancestral home and that the government is trying to force them out of the forest to give the land to private individuals.
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3. Do the Ogiek pose an environmental threat to the forest?
No. The Ogiek selectively hunt animals in the Mau Forest that are not endangered. These animals are hunted for food, not for sport. Recently, the Ogiek have cut back on their hunting, focusing more on rearing sheep and goats and growing food such as beans, potatoes, and cabbage.
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4. What is the real threat to the Mau Forest?
The Kenyan government is allowing logging companies to cut down trees in the Mau Forest. Many of Kenya's protected forests have been illegally sold or given to developers. The government imposed a partial logging ban which exempts three big logging companies: Pan African Paper Mills, Raiply Timber, and Timsales Ltd. According to the government, the three firms were exempted because Raiply and Timsales employ over 30,000 Kenyans, while Pan African was exempted because "the government has shares in it and is important to the economy." Furthermore, supporters of various politicians close to Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi have received forest land from the government. Thus, while the government allows powerful logging companies to cut down trees in the forest, it is persecuting an indigenous people who pose no environmental threat and lack political power.
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5. Are any other groups being displaced from the Mau Forest?
Unfortunately, yes. The Maasai, a pastoralist people who dwell in the Mau Forest during the dry seasons, are also being threatened by Kenya's disregard for the rights of indigenous groups. The Maasai's land once extended over a vast stretch of area from Lake Victoria almost to the Indian Ocean. But disease and European colonization in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries reduced their land substantially. Since independence in the 1960s, more and more of their land has been taken over for private farms and ranches, government projects, and wildlife parks. According to Survival International, six of Kenya and Tanzania's national parks alone cover more than 13,000 square kilometers (5,000 square miles) of what was once Maasailand.
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6. Have the Ogiek petitioned the government for action?
For years, Ogiek representatives asked President Daniel arap Moi and other Kenyan officials to take action to protect them. When these requests proved unsuccessful, the Ogiek went to court in 1997 to stop Kenyan officials from surveying and allocating the Ogiek's land to others. The Ogiek wanted a declaration that their right to life had been violated by being evicted from Tinet Forest. (Tinet, about 250 km or 155 miles west of Nairobi, is part of the much larger Mau Forest.) They also sought orders that the government compensate them and pay the legal costs. Relations between the Ogiek and the government deteriorated after the lawsuit, leading to the 1999 order that established Tinet as environmentally protected land. The Ogiek's lawsuit eventually went to the Kenyan High Court, who dismissed the case in March 2000 but ordered the Kenyan government to pay legal costs.
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7. Have the Ogiek exhausted their legal options?
Not quite. The only legal option the Ogiek have left is to appeal their case. A date for their appeal has not yet been fixed. But Kenyan courts are known to delay such cases, even for a year, while the destruction and settlement on Ogiek lands has not stopped. Unless legislative action is taken now, much of the forest may be lost, in which case the land will be meaningless to the Ogiek. Kenyan courts are known to follow the government line. Even if the Court of Appeal orders that the Ogiek remain in Mau Forest, they will not be legal owners of the land and will live under permanent threat unless legislative action is taken to give them that guarantee.
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8. What do the Ogiek want to do now?
They want the government to stop the continued allocation of Mau Forest. The Ogiek also want the government to enact an Ogiek Land Act and review Kenya's Forest Act so that they would have the right to inhabit Mau Forest and traditionally conserve the forest on behalf of their children. The Ogiek have already argued their case before a Commission of Inquiry into the Land Law System in Kenya, which was set up to address contentious land issues throughout Kenya.
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9. Who is supporting the Ogiek?
Several organizations are supporting the Ogiek. First of all the local grassroot organizations of the Ogiek themselves, like the Ogiek Welfare Council and surely  ECOTERRA Kenya as our node up front. This website is a partnership between these organizations. Many renowned international organizations like Survival International have been instrumental in safeguarding the interests of the Ogiek. After our spearheading for an Ogiek website, the U.S.-based Digital Freedom Network and the Kenya-based Rights Features Service had been instrumental in getting this website up in the first place and their former input is hereby acknowledged.
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10. How can I learn more about the Ogiek?
Our News section has the latest information on the Ogiek. For more background information on the Ogiek, see our In-Depth section. Or subscribe to our mailing list and get the latest updates by e-mail. (Your information is safe with us. See our privacy policy for more details.)
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11. Is there anything I can do to help the Ogiek?
Yes. Our Take Action section explains how you can make a difference. You can send protest letters online to Kenyan officials, send e-mails to friends asking them to act on behalf of the Ogiek, and download an Ogiek logo and link to put on your Web site. You can also subscribe to our e-mail list for updates on the Ogiek.
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12. Why will my action make a difference?
Kenya is sensitive to international pressure because any negative portrayal of the country would hurt tourism and the country's claim that it is a regional leader. We believe that this campaign will work both inside and outside the Kenyan political system.
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Mau Forest

by Cheruiyot Kiplangat, Ogiek


My dear Mau, how beautiful you were, 
Your love, your care, 
I can't forget,
Glance at you, restores my sight,
Its' you, I can't afford to miss.

A natural gift you were, 
The custodian of our lives,
Unemployed, poor, without food,
Sick, and ailing,
Generously, you solved them all.

A home for the wildlife you were,
Preserver of God's creation
Our country gained, as tourists came.
The bees, the elephants, the others'
All found peace with you.

A source of rivers you were,
Your waters were clean,
The Mara, and the Sondu, 
East Africa and Egypt praised you, 
Without you, no more water.

Today's, I mourn the Mau, 
Brutal attacks on you, 
Excisions and fires, tractors and sawmills,
Have we abandoned you? 'The Mau'
Don't we need you anymore?

No! The Ogiek can't leave you?
We'll defend and fight,
In court, we bargain, 
Besides you, we teach,
In heaven, we pray,
All for your sake, 'the Mau.'

 

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