Archive 2002

Another false start for Ogiek case
by John Kamau, Rights Features Service

(February 21, 2002) The Ogiek indigenous community today expressed frustration after their court case was once again rescheduled to April 23.

Since last March, the Ogiek have been attempting through legal means to stop the President Daniel arap Moi government from degazetting parts of their east Mau forest and allocating them to outsiders. This most recent delay results from the government's failure to file a replying affidavit.

The Ogiek are Africa's last known honey-hunters and have been fighting to save their land from encroachment by timber, tea and political interests.

Legal frustrations

"This is yet another false start, but we will have to wait for them to file the defense," the Ogiek attorney, Kathurima M'Inoti, said in Nairobi today.

The lawyer had earlier told Justice Rimita of the Kenyan High Court to allow the case to go ahead ex parte since the government had not filed the defense. Ex parte, literally meaning "for one party only," refers to situations in which only one party (and not the adversary) appears before a judge. The High Court was told that the state counsel, Muthoni Kimani, who was supposed to represent the government was "out of the country."

The case was earlier being handled by State Counsel Valerie Onyango and it is not clear why Muthoni Kimani is taking it over. Kimani handled the earlier forest case at the High Court in Eldoret, where the court gave the government permission to degazette the forests.

Meanwhile, the Ogiek lawyer will on Monday serve the new minister for environment, Joseph Kamotho, with a court order that stops any interference with the east Mau land until the current case is heard and determined.

"The numerous changes at the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources means we have to keep on serving the new ministers with the same order. We do not want to find ourselves in a position where a minister says he was not served with an order," said Kathurima.

Since the case was filed last year, three politicians have held posts as Environmental Minister. An ongoing reshuffle saw the exit of Joseph Nyenze and then Noah Katana Ngala.

Ogiek still resolved

Addressing the press outside the High Court, the Ogiek Welfare Council spokesman, Joseph Towett, said the community is "determined to have the case concluded."

More than 100 Ogiek elders jammed the corridors of the High Court to listen to the case.

"We will not tire to come here," an elder told Rights Features Service.

The Ogiek are Africa's last known honey-hunters and have been fighting to save their land from encroachment by timber, tea and political interests.

OGIEK HOME