Some of the 5,000 Ogiek who came to the High Court in Nairobi for the hearing of a case in which the community is seeking a court injunction to stop the provincial administration in Rift Valley and the area forestry officer from evicting them from Tinet Forest in Nakuru District.
(Pic: PAUL WAWERU)
Friday, June 25, 1999
Leave Ogiek community alone,
By ANDREW KURIA
The government was yesterday
restrained from evicting 5,000 members of the Ogiek community from
a forest in Nakuru.
Two High Court judges sitting in
Nairobi ordered the Rift Valley provincial commissioner and the
forest officer not to kick out the community from Tinet Forest.
The Ogieks attended court
proceedings in their hundreds clad in their traditional regalia.
Mr Justice Sam Oguk and Mr Justice
Richard Kuloba issued the injunction after counsel representing
the community and that of the Attorney-General recommended it.
The judges said: "By this
consent, the status quo will be maintained. The order is to remain
until the application filed by the applicants is heard and
The 10 applicants representing the
community are led by Mr Francis Kemei. Their lawyer, Mr Joseph
Sergon, has named the respondents in the suit as the AG, the Rift
Valley PC, the provincial forest officer and the Nakuru district
State counsel Judy Madahana and
Anthony Omwayo said they had not had time to peruse some of the
documents related to the suit.
"We are not ready to proceed
with the suit. I have just received the file from Nakuru, where
this suit originated. I have not had time to prepare adequately in
view of the seriousness of the matter raised by the applicants,"
Mrs Madahana told the court.
She said that although the office
of the AG had entered into a consent to have the injunction
granted, she would apply for an adjournment to enable the office
file replies to the affidavits already in court.
In response, Mr Sergon said that
although his clients appreciated the circumstances facing the four
defendants in their bid to reply to the affidavits, he was ready
to proceed with the hearing.
The lawyer said his clients would
testify as per the affidavits already filed.
The judges directed that all the
affidavits sworn by the applicants be offered as part of the
evidence and be filed within 14 days. The court also directed that
the four respondents be given 10 days to reply to the affidavits.
They ordered that the suit be heard
on July 28 and 29.
In the application, the community's
lawyer avers that his clients were allocated land in Tinet Forest
between 1991 and last year (1998) by the PC, the forest officer
and the Nakuru DC.
"The 14 applicants and the
Ogiek community they represent have constructed 10 primary schools
and seven trading centres in Tinet Forest. On May 13, the DC and
the PC gave a verbal notice of 14 days to the applicants and the
community living in the forest to quit or be forcefully evicted,"
the lawyer says in the notice of motion.
He adds that the community will
suffer irreparably if the respondents are not stopped from
evicting its members and interfering with their property.
The lawyer produced in court an
affidavit sworn by Mr Kemei, the first applicant, in which he says
the forest is the community's ancestral land.
"The Ogiek community derives
its livelihood from food gathering, hunting and peasant farming in
the land, one of the county's gazetted forests," Mr Kemei
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