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
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
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
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
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.
In order to effectively address the issue of the Mau and that of
the Ogiek, the Ogiek people recommend inter alia:
- The establishment of an adhoc
Mau Forest commission divorced of the Government.
- The marking of Group Ranches
original boundaries against those of the trust lands under the
Narok County Council
- The recognition of Ogiek
ancestral lands in Narok and Nakuru within the Mau forest
- Setting aside Ogiek communal
land in Narok and Nakuru respectively.
- Establishment of Mau forest
- Constitutional review with focus
on the rights of minorities on land and representation.
- Comprehensive land reform policy.
- Relocation of persons illegally
in occupation of Mau Forest complex.
- A declaration that the Ogiek
have rights to their ancestral lands in the Mau Forest complex.
- A confirmation from the
Government that the Ogiek shall not be re-located or displaced
from their ancestral lands in the Mau.
- 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
God bless you.
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)