" Why are they evicting us…we have not tampered with the
trees, we are an environmentally friendly community"
Susan Tanui, an Ogiek woman.
" We are not of much use to (the) government. (To the government)
we are just a nuisance"
A memorandum by Ogiek leaders pleading with members of
Kenyan parliament to raise the Ogiek issue.
The above quotes summarise
the disbelief that continues to haunt each and every Ogiek in
Kenya. The Ogiek inhabit the 100-mile long Mau highland forest
along the western escarpment of the great Rift Valley in Molo
South, Nakuru District of Kenya.
And now the Ogiek are
on the verge of losing the land they have held so dearly for ages.
The unassuming community has lost traditional hunting land previously
through white settlement and through declaration of their land
as forest reserves and now settlement of other communities. These
processes have not only led to the destruction of the natural
forest, as the Ogiek know it, but has seen the replacement of
the indigenous forest with conifer plantations which are useless
to the Ogiek.
The Mau Forest complex,
the last Ogiek base, covers an area of 900 square kilometres and
lies 200 kilometres Northwest of Nairobi. It contains the largest
remaining block of indigenous forest in East Africa and is under
intense pressure from developers and non-Ogieks.
Ogiek are on the verge of losing the homeland
they have held for ages.
From 1902 forests have
been seen as government land and are covered by the Forest Act.
Under the Act only through degazettement can forestland cease
to be a forest and be inhabited.
It is because of this
that the Ogiek ancestral land is seen as government land and the
reason why the Ogiek are seen as intruders in their ancestral
land. According to the Forest Act it is illegal to hunt in the
forest or collect honey without a special permit. This means that
the Ogieks are breaking the law when they go hunting or collecting
honey from their ancestral forests, a legal anomaly that should
A Kenyan High Court
has validated the eviction of the Ogiek from Mau Forest saying
"the eviction is for the purpose of saving the whole Kenya from
a possible environmental disaster and is being carried out for
the common good within the statutory powers".
Nowhere did the court
say about the huge logging operations which have been destroying
other parts of the Mau forest and tea plantations owned by a company
belonging to President Daniel arap Moi. The only thing we hear
is that the Ogiek should vacate the forest, which they have inhabited
and preserved from time immemorial.
Members of the community
have records dating back to 1900, which indicate they are the
original inhabitants of the forest. It is this determination to
live on and save their home base that is the focus of this document.
colonial times, the Ogiek were forced onto smaller
plots as British colonists took their land.
The struggle by the
Ogiek to preserve their land is a re-play 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
During 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 government
sought to legitimise 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 marred by political influence
as powerful interests set in. Also, the Ogieks thought they were
being swindled of the remaining land if they agreed to the five-acre
scheme. The other interests wish to occupy the forest for timber
cutting and tea plantations and that is the bottom line.
Coupled by these interests
and threats to evict them, the Ogiek moved to court after the
Nakuru District Commissioner issued a 14-days ultimatum.
The Court ruling notwithstanding
time has come to say no to such wanton contempt of a community
that peacefully resides in its own ancestral land.
Kenya is duty bound
to help the Ogiek preserve the characteristics that distinguish
them from the majority by satisfying their special needs. The
Ogiek nationals should be able to preserve the peculiarities,
traditions and national characteristics that make them unique.
This document has been
prepared to put into perspective the struggle of the Ogiek People
against the current onslaught on their traditional homeland. It
stitches together the events that have taken place on the Ogiek
land giving the reader a sound understanding of the tragedy that
awaits the Ogiek. It is the first publication that has looked
at the problem.
We recommend that the
government enact an Ogiek Land Act bill that would recognise the
tribe as the true inhabitants of the Mau Forests. Further we demand
that the government stop the enforced assimilation of the Ogiek.
And finally we ask the Kenya and international community to boycott
any wood sourced from Mau forests until such a time when the rights
of Ogiek are respected.
Through this publication
we want people to understand the nature of the conflict and to
take steps that will guarantee the Ogiek of Kenya their right
to livelihood. It is a Herculean task but it can be done and should