Statement by the Ogiek People National Assembly (OPNA) on the Mau
people have a long history of resistance and struggle that has
sustained their unity, identity and cultural distinction. Lately
however, more than at any other time in their history, the very
existence of the Ogiek as a distinct people has come under concerted
threat. The threat has taken the form of excision of large chunks
of land from their forest homes and settlement of purported squatters
thereon in total disregard of the Ogiek identity, culture and
way of life.
is specifically the fate of the indigenous Ogiek people of the
Mau Forest. It is noteworthy that the Mau will provide 70-80 percent
of the total forest area that is intended to be excised. The Ogiek
have occupied this forest from time immemorial and are customarily
entitled to it. To settle so-called squatters on that land will
deprive the Ogiek of their land and lead to their domination and
marginalisation. In view of the grave ramifications that the intended
forest excisions and settlement will have for the Ogiek as a people,
it is important to understand the basis of the Ogiek objection
to the same.
We wish to
add our voices to the local and international protests against
the excision of forestland. We do not support the attempt by the
Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources to part with our
national heritage and ancestral lands for the following reasons:
- The excisions amount to a death warrant and will lead to
the extinction of our ancestral lands in the Mau Forest complex.
We shall in effect lose our only home and birth right.
- The move will destroy our identity. Our identity has always
been denied by branding us squatters and landless whilst we
have distinct ancestral roots in the Mau Forests Complex. The
government elbowed its way into our ancestral land through the
Forest Act of 1930 and 1942 and through purported conservation
declarations and other laws.
- The intended settlement will lead to the assimilation of
the Ogiek into other groups with the express aim of rendering
the Ogiek extinct. This extinction is being carried out under
the guise of settling the Ogiek. The government is thus implementing
the policies of the colonial government, which recommend in
the 1930s that "Whenever possible the Ogiek (Dorobo) should
become members of and absorbed into the tribe in which they
have closet or most affinity."
- The move will also deny the Ogiek their ethnic and cultural
- The excisions manifest the Kenya government's insensitivity
to both local and international opinion, and disregard of its
own legal system and of rights recognized by international law.
- Supporting the excisions amount to taking sides with powerful
forces jockeying for power and control over natural resources
at the expense of the rights and interests of the weaker sections
- The excisions represent a blatant violation of a court order
that we the Ogiek obtained to stop the subdivision and allotment
of forestland in Eastern Mau Forest.
- Falling into the Government trap thus making them an emerge
heroes of the Ogiek negative publicity and misinformation on
the Ogiek plight and struggles.
about the Ogiek
people are the largest and the only remaining forest dwellers
in Kenya. They number about 20,000 people. They live in groups
and clans and are found in areas of Nakuru, Mt. Elgon, Koibatek,
Nandi and Narok District. They are a cultural entity of their
own. They speak the Ogiek language and practice hunting and gathering
and doing a bit of traditional agriculture within the system of
land tenure common to the forest dwelling communities. The tenure
comprises of tree tenure, animal tenure and land tenure. The Ogiek
holds their land collectively while individual community members
and families enjoy subsidiary rights of use and occupancy.
lands are neither demarcated nor otherwise specifically recognized
by the Kenya Laws. By threatening sacred sites and the habitat
within which the community engage in hunting, gathering and other
pastoral activities and farming, the logging concessions and the
on going settlement scheme, not only threatens the integral aspects
of the Ogiek communities existence, continuity and culture but
it also seeks to kill community's hope of passing on their identity
and land to its children. It will further deny the Ogiek children
an opportunity to grow in their own culture and enjoy their ancestral
Ogiek are being evicted from one part of their ancestral lands
on the ground that they are a danger to the environment, other
sections are being oened up for miscellaneous settlement. The
truth is that the real danger to the environment has been logging
have so far released many contradictory figures. Our own statistics
puts the Ogiek families in Eastern Mau at 543 families with a
total population of 5,484 members. There are 12 major clans who
owns parcels of land in the Mau complex under the customary law
where glades, valleys, swamps , rivers and traditional sacred
trees serves as boundaries. This form of tenure (Land, tree, animal)
is what the current advocates of the market economy tenure seek
i) The government
refused to affirm the existence of the indigenous minorities Ogiek
collective rights to their land, resources, and environment with
this the Ogiek can cite the currents sub division and allocating
of the community's ancestral lands to people allied to the government
and who also happens to be from selected districts.
the Ogiek sought judicial protection by seeking redress in the
courts of law the government has not complied with the decision
and orders of the court, instead it has incited the selected beneficiaries
to invade the community's ancestral land and sub-divide it amongst
themselves with the help of the government agents.
government has also refused to recognize the fact that the land
issue to the Ogiek community is not merely a question of possession
and production, but it is also a material and spiritual element
which they should enjoy as well as a means to preserve their cultural
heritage and pass it to future generations.
iv) The government
is not only discriminating against the Ogiek community by denying
then equal protection under laws but also violating its obligation
under international law to conform its domestic laws to give effect
to the various human rights laws and instruments that are in existence.
v) The Kenya
government has intentionally maintained a clear, if unstated, policy
to frustrate all efforts by the Ogiek to secure legal protection
for their traditional lands, culture, ethnic identity and language.
of the Ogiek case (HCCA No. 635/97)
In this case
members of the Ogiek community have sued the government and are
challenging the legality of the demarcation and alienation of
their ancestral lands. It is a case of its own kind as it exposes
the government's discriminative policy against vulnerable minority
communities such as the Ogiek. The continued threats to Ogiek
ancestral land is thus as a result of the government sanctioning
its invasion, whilst the obvious result is a major environmental
disaster to the whole country and the killing the Ogiek language,
culture and identity.
Government's continued refusal to guarantee the Ogiek Community's
land rights and its determination to alienate Ogiek land to powerful
individuals within its bureaucracy has eroded the community's
confidence in it.
the Mau Forest, for instance East Mau, are in fact the subject
of an unsettled constitutional application by the local Ogiek
(HCCA No. 635.97) Nairobi seeking to declare land allocations
there null and void. In October 1997 the High Court of Kenya issued
an order which prohibited further allocation of the suit land
until all the issues in dispute are resolved in court. The order
is still in force. Hence the present purported excision of part
of the Mau Forest clearly constitutes contempt of court.
intend to call anthropologists, archaeologists, conservationists
and other experts as witnesses. They intend to adduce both oral
and documented evidence in support of their case. The Ogiek regard
the overt pressure being exerted upon them by sections of the
provincial administration as a blatant attempt to interfere with
the cause of justice.
on going full scale surveying work, title registration, increase
in the administrative units and the government decision that all
the forest plantations be cleared before December 2001, the Ogiek
ancestral lands and once good environment are gone and gone forever.
They can now feel the rising temperatures of assimilation. The
Minister has accomplished the mission of super land grabbers.
are numbered; crossing over the 21st century to them has been
a miracle. We highly believe that we were condemned to death without
being given an opportunity to be heard. Our land issue had been
ignored or postponed from colonial times to this day. "JUSTICE
DELAYED IS JUSTICE DENIED."
uncertain future, then the Ogiek cannot support the decision
of the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources to degazette
parts of its ancestral lands for it spells doom to the Ogiek future.
If the Kenyan
government is interested in having the Ogiek community to contribute
to its rich culture and history, then it should conserve the community's
habitat both for the Ogiek and the majority of Kenyans whose livelihood
depends on the preservation of the Mau Forest Complex ecology.
excisions are thus continuing without Ogiek support. To our fellow
Kenyans, we tell them to be wary of land grabbing interests that
support forest excisions whilst purporting to be Ogiek.
- Immediately stop the excision of our ancestral lands.
- Allow Ogiek cases pending in court should be expeditiously
heard and resolved.
- Legal entitlement to the Mau forest as our community communal
property and thus be provided with "ANCESTORSHIP DOMAIN CERTIFICATE
- Allow the Ogiek to exclude any intruders in their communal
- End the political manipulation of the Ogiek.
- Allow the Ogiek to participate in the Constitutional Review
- Require that the Njonjo Commission, which the Ogiek petitioned
for their ancestral lands, should publicize its reports.
- Recognize the Ogiek as conservators of the Mau forest as a
community forest under joint forestry management initiative.
- Conserve the Mau Forest as a national and regional water catchment
OUR FORESTS, LONG LIVE OGIEK
Ogiek People National Assembly (OPNA)