With the Ogiek land now
under threat and other politically correct communities earmarked
to be settled there was a new move now throw a veil of fear on the
community. Journalists who visited the Ogiek land found a community
living in fear. One of them was Ngugi wa Mbugua who filed the initial
report titled "Scramble for the Dorobo Country" which set the mood
on what was happening. This was one of the most correct assessments
of what awaited the Ogiek.
This is how wa Mbugua
introduced us to the Ogiek people:
"Among a tiny, closely-knit
and ultra conservative community living in a desolate clearing inside
a thick forest, the individual is scarcely expected to have a mind
of his own. The chief and Administration Police are the ad hoc controllers
of the flow of information in a such a set up...
Ngugi wa Mbugua, "The Scramble for the Dorobo Country", Sunday Nation,
26 November 1995.
"They take it
as their inviolable duty to vet and decide which stranger may or
may not be allowed to mix freely with 'my people'. Woe unto the
intruder if he is a wee bit inquisitive and has arrived in a car".32
That observation was
done by wa Mbugua in 1995 clearly depicted the kind of administrative
structures that have been put into place to thwart the free flow
of information of what was happening to the outside world.
Ngugi wa Mbugua, "The Scramble for the Dorobo Country", Sunday
Nation, 26 November 1995.
"The assistant chief
of Nessiut location declared us persona non grata. He ensured we
left the forest location faster than we had got in".33
The journalist was told
on the face:
"You cannot talk to
anyone...they (Ogieks) are not authorised to talk to you either".
And that intimidation
was enough, recalled wa Mbugua:
"That did it...men
and women, who only a few moments back were more than willing to
talk to us withdrew into cast iron cocoons. A sort of code of silence
Rather than help their
people, the chiefs and sub-chiefs appointed by the government became
instruments of terror.
William Kalegu in an interview with Munuhe Gichuki, "Ogiek elders
struggle to repossess ancestral land", 9 April 1999.
a member of Kiptierom clan of Ogiek, I am shocked by the goings
on. The area chief (Samson Sakimu ole Kipiro) and the assistant
chiefs are being used by the state to oppress the community by insisting
that each Ogiek community is entitled to only five acre plots. I
think the chief should come to our side and work with his people
instead of bringing in foreigners who he claims have been sent by
the President or the DC. This should not be so".34
"Dorobo Saga...Now Guns Drawn in the Forest for Press: Seven Arrested
for Helping Journalists, East African Standard, 26 November
November 25, journalists from the East African Standard had
a nasty experience when they went to the forest to follow up the
Ogiek story. They found the Nakuru DC, Aden Noor who on seeing the
journalists ordered the Administration Police to get them out of
the forest at gunpoint. As if that was not enough seven Ogieks who
had volunteered to show the journalists the way out of the thick
forest were immediately arrested.35
"Elders: 200 Dorobo Evicted by DC", Sunday Nation, 31 December
then emerged that the DC had gone to the forest to order some 200
Ogieks out of the forest. This infuriated the Ogiek elders who thought
they should report the matter to the Special Branch offices in Nakuru.
Nothing happened and on December 23 and 24 they called a press conference
in Nakuru and told of how 200 Ogieks were evicted by the DC36
from the forest.
"DC scraps plan to re-settle Dorobos", Daily Nation, 3 January
Whether this angered
the DC is not clear but two days after the information was published
the DC scrapped the original plan of settling the Ogieks in the
forest, which would have made them the bona fide owners of the land.37
Those who attempted to
speak on behalf of the Ogiek, especially the then Member of Parliament,
Njenga Mungai were accused of meddling in affairs they were not
familiar. This is what Nakuru County Council vice-chairman William
"Lasoi: MP Meddling in Ogiek Affairs", Kenya Times, 12 January
"It is ironic and
ridiculous for [Njenga Mungai] to pretend to be concerned about
the plight of a small community when a small confusion arose in
the resettlement of the Ogiek".38
With their MP under attack
for speaking for and on their behalf the Ogiek found themselves
without any representative.
By May the elders decided
to write to President Moi expressing fear that unless they were
legally recognised as the inhabitants of the forest then they would
soon culturally become extinct. The letter signed by 13 Ogiek elders
David Okwembah, "Dorobo Elders Write to Moi" East African Standard,
30 May 1996.
"Unless the community
is settled, it will continue to squat in Nessuit and Marioshoni
locations without any hope. Sir, ...we ask to be settled exclusively
as a community with our own cultural entity and affiliation in a
land reserve like any other community in Kenya."39
This never happened and
frustrated, the Ogiek decided to pressurise their case by joining
hands with the Endoroiss who had been displaced and denied income
from the Lake Bogoria Game reserve in the Rift Valley.
On November 1996, the
two minority communities decided to form the Ogiek-Endoroiss Alliance
whose objective was to champion for the rights of the minority groups.
But their leader, Daniel Kibet Chesot was arrested on November 7
and charged with being a member of an illegal organisation. Another
Ogiek leader and official of the organisation, Kimaiyo Towett was
also arrested when he went to the station to enquire the fate of
William Kamket, "Police Officer roughs up DO", Daily Nation,
11 November 1996
members of the local press went to the police station on November
10 accompanied by the Ogiek lawyer, Juma Kiplenge, the police threatened
to use tear gas to disperse them. After one hour, Kiplenge was allowed
to see his clients. The police were so rough that in the process
they roughed up a District Officer.40
"Molo Court orders 35 Accused treated", Daily Nation, 22
The next day, November
12 some 35 Ogiek elders were arrested by police for ostensibly "aiding
prisoners to escape". When their case came up, their lawyer Mirugi
Kariuki told a Court in Molo town that the elders were "tortured"
and had to ask the court to order the police to take them to hospital.41
This move was widely
seen as part of the general intimidation of the Ogiek. It was one
way of instilling fear on the general Ogiek community.
And that had continued
for years and in the July 1996 memorandum to the members of parliament,
the Ogieks told of their continued harassment at the hands of the
administration. Fancy this:
"Help us live in Our Ancestral Land and Retain Both Our Human and
Cultural Identities as Kenyans of Ogiek Origin", a memorandum submitted
to all Members of parliament by the Representatives of Kenyans of
Ogiek Community living in Nessuit and Marioshoni Parts of the Mau
Forest, dated July 15, 1996.
"For those of us whose
home is in Tinet Forest from which we have been expelled to make
way for people from Kericho, we are in exile or in concentration
camps...our movements have been restricted. We no longer can hunt
and collect honey from the entire forest as we have done traditionally.
The colonial and post-colonial governments left us alone. We have
never threatened their interests. We are not of much use to government.
We are just a nuisance..."42
At Nessuit our team came
across Mzee Joseph Kusak who narrated a sad story:
Interview with Joseph Kusak of Nessuit, July 31, 2000.
"The chief and
the councillor sold my daughter's land. The chief, Rotich and councillor
Kuluma are both Ogiek but related to Kipsigis. They're forcibly
felling our trees along with the forester and selling them to Njoro
sawmillers. Last month (July) the Njoro District Officer and Administration
Police came to my house and tried to assault me. I grabbed a panga
and told them to do what they want. They shot in the air and left".43
The conclusion one gets
from the above account is that of a community under siege from
the provincial administration. The constant harassment of the
Ogiek is a continuos process and should not be seen as isolated
cases. Ogiek leaders have tried all the avenues but so far they
have not succeeded in the fight to get a place they can call home.
In the Chapter that follows we will look at the wanton deliberate
destruction of Ogiek forests in a bid to force them out and give
away their ancestral land. MORE>>