News 2008

 

OGIEK MEMORANDUM

DATE : 12TH JULY 2008

TO : THE RIGHT HONOURABLE: PRIME MINISTER HON. RAILA AMOLO ODINGA.

SUBJECT: OGIEK ANCESTRAL LANDS IN THE MAU FOREST COMPLEX



Hon. Primer Minister,

Nearly 45 years have passed since Kenya attained her independence and the minority Ogiek people still live like squatters in their own country yet historians believe that the Ogiek are the first inhabitants to modern day Kenya. The land seizure by the colonial powers in Africa and in Kenya particularly left the Ogiek landless following the findings of Lord cater in 1933. The carter land commission recommended to the crown that the Ogiek were a savage, barbaric and wondering tribe and hence deserved no reserve of their own. The Ogiek lost their land as a result of the carter land commission.

In 1942, the Forest Act was enacted by the colonial powers which Act in itself criminalized the activities of the Ogiek being a hunter-gatherer community. Upon independence in 1963, the post colonial regimes carried over the Eurocentric views on Ogiek Land rights and did not address the Ogiek land question nor attempted to find a solution to the Ogiek land problem. The Local Authorities Act Chapter 265 was subsequently promulgated together with protected areas Act Chapter 204 Laws of Kenya which unilaterally extinguished the rights of the Ogiek to their ancestral lands in the vast Mau Forest. However the provisions of the Forest Act in particularly before it was amended as it stands now contravened the constitution of Kenya as the constitution provides for the right to life, liberty and livelihood.

The right honorable Prime Minister;

The saga surrounding the Mau Forest and its destruction is monumental and cannot be attributed to a small indigenous community like the Ogiek. The Ogiek are re-known conservationists and would not destroy their own environment as in the case of the Mau. While the Ogiek of Narok live under the trust land of the Narok County Council, the Ogiek of Nakuru live under the so called proteCted areas or Government forest. During the Moi regime the Ogiek lost most of their land to settler communities and powerful interest in the government then. The Moi regime degazzetted huge chunks of lands in Mau East and West for political expediency. Land was given out in the name of Ogiek while beneficiaries were others.

It is thus fundamental to note that though individuals have moved in and settled in the Mau, the past regimes had a hand in the ongoing wanton destruction of the Mau Forest. The settlement of people in Sururu, Likia and Tinet is a good example of bad governance and mismanagement of resources.

The situation facing the Ogiek living in Narok is that a few Group Ranches were reserved for the Ogiek boarding the Maasai Mau forest. Enkaroni Group Ranch and Enkishom Group Ranches are the only designated group ranches for the Ogiek in Narok. The said group ranches were fraudulently used by land grabbers and speculators to encroach on the Maasai Mau forest without the due process of the law. Members of the said group ranches have no claim of what is not formally within their defined group ranches respectively. While thus mooting debates on the Mau Forest the issue of group ranches should be clearly delineated save where there are issues on boundaries. Further, the Ogiek of Enoosupukia and Sasimwani in Narok district have no legal claim over their ancestral lands despite having lived there from time immemorial.

They are said to be living in trust land of the Narok County Council. The principle of trust land as created in the Kenyan constitution was that these lands are held in trust for the local people. The people of Sasimwani and Enoosupukia thus deserve by right and the doctrine of adverse possession to be rightfully granted the legal rights to their territories they occupy.

The Prime Minister,

The scenario in Nakuru is messy; most of Ogiek land in Nesuit, Kiptungo, Mariashoni, Likia, Sururu, Ndoinet and Tinet was expropriated to other communities. The Ogiek resisted the move of putting them in 5 acre plots while settler communities including Government personnel allocated themselves tracts of land. As a result the Ndung’u Commission established that public land in the Mau forest was illegally allocated to individuals and thus should revert back to the government. The Ogiek went to court to seek for justice over their lands and to date nothing is forthcoming as there is no independent judicial system in Kenya. As a result the Ogiek cannot pursue economic and infrastructural developments in their ancestral lands as they have no legal assurance of ownership of the lands they occupy.

Hon. Prime Minister,

Nature can never be managed well unless people closest to it are involved in its management and a healthy relationship is established between nature, society and culture. Common natural resources earlier regulated through diverse, decentralized community control systems, but the state’s policy of converting common property resources into Government property resources has put them in the service of the powerful today with no participation of the Ogiek people in the management of local resources even the poor have become so marginalized and alienated from their environment that the are ready to discount their future and sell away the remaining natural resources for a pittance.

In the past, the Ogiek could live their lives by hunting, harvesting honey, eating wild fruits ,but through legislation, the Forest Act Cap 265 and 204 respectively have incorporated forests, hills, valleys and all hunting grounds making it impossible for indigenous peoples to exercise their rights to their culture and the right to self determination as contained in the recently adopted Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

It is in our view that any solution to the Mau forest lies with the people and the use and management of the natural resources. We have seen in the recent past how land and resources use conflicts can ruin a country. The perpetual denial of the Ogiek to their ancestral land is not only discriminating but a ticking time bomb.

If the government has to achieve vision 2030, then the people of Kenya including minorities must be on equal footing in both social and economic pedestals. We all agree that the Mau Forest crisis is not only a local issue but have far much inter national implications in this era of global warming. The effect on wildlife in the Mara ecosystem is far reaching and only negates the spirit of achieving the millennium development goals and vision 2030.

The grand coalition government therefore must take urgent measures in collaboration with communities and stake holders to address the issue surrounding the Mau Forest: that is land, resources and more importantly the Ogiek people’s rights to their lands within the larger Mau.

In the past 15 years, the conservationist have made more concerted efforts to develop principles and guidelines designed to reconcile Indigenous Peoples rights with conservation initiatives. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) imposes obligations on governments to respect, preserve and maintain indigenous people’s knowledge, innovations and practices and to protect and encourage their customary use of natural resources. At the same time major advances in international law have more clearly defined the rights of Indigenous Peoples and these advances have been consolidated in the recently UN adopted Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

It is now possible to point to international human rights committees which interpret them and state with confidence that international law now Recognizes the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to self determination, in no case to be deprived of their means to subsistence, own, develop, control and use their communal lands, territories and resources, traditionally owned or otherwise occupied by them, the free enjoyment of their own culture and to maintain their traditional way of life, free and informed consent prior to activities on their lands, represent themselves through their own institutions, exercise their customary law and finally restitution of their lands and compensation for losses induced.

RECOMMENDATIONS

In order to effectively address the issue of the Mau and that of the Ogiek, the Ogiek people recommend inter alia:

  1. The establishment of an adhoc Mau Forest commission divorced of the Government.
  2. The marking of Group Ranches original boundaries against those of the trust lands under the Narok County Council
  3. The recognition of Ogiek ancestral lands in Narok and Nakuru within the Mau forest complex.
  4. Setting aside Ogiek communal land in Narok and Nakuru respectively.
  5. Establishment of Mau forest conservation centre
  6. Constitutional review with focus on the rights of minorities on land and representation.
  7. Comprehensive land reform policy.
  8. Relocation of persons illegally in occupation of Mau Forest complex.
  9. A declaration that the Ogiek have rights to their ancestral lands in the Mau Forest complex.
  10. A confirmation from the Government that the Ogiek shall not be re-located or displaced from their ancestral lands in the Mau.
  11. The immediate implementation of the Ndung’u Land Commission report.

As a leader who embraces change, we believe in, it is our hope that you shall take it upon your good offices to sort out the Mau Forest saga and the Ogiek land question.

God bless you.

Endorsed by:

1. Ogiek Peoples National Assembly (OPNA)
    Charles Saina Sena ESQ (Chairman)

2. Ogiek Welfare Council
    Joseph Towett (N. Coordinator)

3. Ogiek Peoples Development Programme
    Daniel Kobei (E. Director)

4. Ogiek Cultural Initiative
    Simon Parkerui (E. Director)

5. Ogiek Rural Integral Projects
    Nancy Letiet (Program Officer)

 

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