In Defence of a Minority Tribe
Fighting for Survival
A book review, African
Church Information Service,
3 July 2001
Title: The Ogiek - The on-Going Destruction of a Minority
Tribe in Kenya;
Author: John Kamau
Publisher: Rights News and Features Service (Publishing Division),
Volume: 74 pp
The Ogiek a.k.a Dorobo, is a small
tribe inhabiting the expansive Mau forests in central part of
Kenya's Rift Valley province.
Over the years, the small
"tribe" has found itself homeless following the
gazetting of all forestland in Kenya by both the colonial and the
John Kamau, the author is a
freelance journalist based in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, and
specializes on human rights issues.
The book does not only seek to
assist the Ogiek search for their identity but also indicates the
consequences of the failure by the government and others to
identify the Ogiek as a tribe.
The current onslaught on the
fertile, hardwood rich Mau Forest of the central Rift Valley
province marks the final onslaught on the Ogiek people whose only
crime is to inhabit a forest they deem as their own.
According to the author, the
struggle by the Ogiek to preserve their land is a replay of the
overall struggle of the minority in the whole world.
For years, the indigenous
communities have been exploited by other groups and dispossessed
from their hereditary lands leading to a general destruction of
their culture, says Kamau.
During the colonial times, members
of the Ogiek tribe were forced onto smaller plots as British
colonialists settled on their valuable land. Tinet Forest is part
of the forest that they moved into until it was gazetted as a
government forest in 1961.
Since then, they have lived as
squatters and have been subjected to constant harassment by the
authorities. In 1991, the Kenya government sought to ligitimise
the Ogiek's habitation of the forest and started allocating five
acres of the forest per family to the 5,000 members.
The exercise was however marred by
political influence as powerful interests set in. The Ogieks
thought they were being swindled of the remaining land if they
agreed to the five-acre scheme. The bottom line is that the other
interested groups wish to occupy the forest (and some have already
done so) for timber cutting and tea plantations.
The author recommends that the
government should enact the Ogiek Land Bill to protect the Ogieks
as the true inhabitants of the Mau Forest.
The 74-page book is a must read for
those wishing to keep abreast with the human rights issues and the
especially the plight of the marginalized indigenous tribes.
Ogiek: The Ongoing Destruction of a Minority Tribe in Kenya
A 74-page in-depth report on the Ogiek, written by John Kamau
of Rights Features Service.