MEMORANDUM FROM SENGWER OF KENYA - PART 1

 

PART 1 , PART 2 , PART 3 , PART 4 , CODE LIST FOR 1989 POPULATION CENSUS

 

MEMORANDUM FROM SENGWER OF KENYA 

PRESENTED TO 

CONSTITUTION OF KENYA REVIEW COMMISSION 


On 10^th day of July 2002 

AT COMMISSION'S BOARDROOM 
KENCOM BUILDING, 2^ND FLOOR. 


NEW CONSTITUTION IS THE ONLY HOPE FOR ETHNIC MINORITIES 

Contact Person

Yator Kiptum
Executive Coordinator
Sengwer Indigenous Development Project
P.O. Box 3894, Kitale - Kenya 
Mobile Tel: 254 734 689958 
Email: sengwer.idp@multitechweb.com  ; mailto: ykiptumsengwer@hotmail.com 

 

Index of this compilation

PREAMBLE

1.0 WHO AND WHERE WE ARE 

2.0 SENGWER ANCESTRAL TERRITORY

3.0 COLONIAL INJUSTICES

3.1 Forced Assimilation and Loss of Identity

3.2 Alienation of Sengwer ancestral land

3.3 Gave Sengwer ancestral Land to other communities

3.4 Altered Sengwer ancestral territorial boundary

3.5 Converted Sengwer ancestral land and home into government forest

3.6 Denied Sengwer to have leaders of their own

3.7 Interference with the Sengwer traditional communal land ownership

3.8 Destruction of the Sengwer traditional lifestyle

3.9 Discrimination in distributing Native Reserves

3.10 Converted part of Sengwer ancestral land to a game park



PREAMBLE

Considering that, in accordance with the principles proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations, recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world, 

Inspired by the provisions of article 1.1 of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities. The article states that "States shall protect the existence and the national or ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic identity of minorities within their respective territories and shall encourage conditions for the promotion of that identity", 

Inspired by the comment in the Minority Rights Fact Sheet no.18 that "And whenever the rights of minorities are denied, universally accepted human rights will be violated", 

Inspired by the provisions of the Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice (Unesco, 1978) that "All individuals and groups have the right to be different, to consider themselves as different and to be regarded as such", 

Inspired by the provisions of article 27 of the International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states "In those states in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or to use their own language", 

Inspired by the provisions of the Declaration of Philadelphia (1944) which states "…Universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based upon Social Justice". 

Our worry is that what was contained in the speech of the First President of Kenya the late J. Kenyatta when he was a Prime Minister about the constitution [1] when he arrived from Lancaster on 5^th February 1962 was not adhered to and even it was not written in the constitution, 

It is our hope that the review of the constitution will be a historical landmark for this country and that we shall come to terms with the past injustices and forge a common future and destiny, 

It is our hope that the new constitution shall bring to an end the past mistakes and injustices that have led to our community being oppressed, marginalised, discriminated and not recognised, 

It is our hope that the new constitution shall respect and recognise our tribal identity as Sengwer a separate and distinct ethnic minority in Kenya, 

It is our hope that the new constitution shall respect and recognise our human rights and fundamental freedoms, 

Finally, it is our dream, it is our hope that the new constitution shall bring peace of the mind and of the soul and satisfaction to the oppressed, marginalised, discriminated and unrecognized minority indigenous ethnic groups and to every Kenyan. 


1.0 WHO AND WHERE WE ARE 

"Once the Cherangany were a powerful race called Sengwer." [2]

"We are not Marakwet, but Sengwerr." [3]

Sengwer (Cherangany) is a minority, unrecognized, marginalised, oppressed and discriminated against hunter-gatherer [4] indigenous ethnic group. "The Cherangany is a nickname given to us by the Maasai. Sengwer acquired cattle from the Maasai through blackmail." [5]

"We were robbed of our cattle by the Karamojong and then the Maasai laughed at us because we had no cattle, and called us Cherangany (ni)." [6] We are also referred to as Dorobo [7]. "The Dorobo problem has risen because these people, living in small scattered groups, spread over large areas without any property…lived from hand to mouth by hunting and bee keeping…" [8]

"We used to go over to Cherangani shooting and the only people with whom we came in contact along the Cherangani Hills were the Cherangani Dorobo, a small tribe of Dorobo." [9]

"They are really losing their identity to some extent. Chairman: Would you say they were in the process of being absorbed by the Elgeyo or Marakwet? Mr. Hoey: No. I would not actually say that. I don't think they have reached that position yet. I noticed yesterday how emphatic they were on the Sengwer. Chairman: You say they are closely allied to the Dorobo? Mr. Hoey: I think undoubtedly they are." [10] 

"to the Maasai menace, it did not exist. If the Maasai shared Kaptiony salt-lick, as they almost certainly did, they did not interfere with the Cherangani. No wise cattleman offends the little from the forests…" [11]

We are currently distributed in Trans Nzoia, Marakwet and West Pokot districts in the North Rift Valley province. Sengwer form a minority in these districts. Sengwer population is approximately 60,000. 


2.0 SENGWER ANCESTRAL TERRITORY 

Commences from Kiporoom River in Uasin Gishu District. It extends along Kapsumbeywet river through Ziwa (Sirikwa) centre, Moiben Posta and Kose hills in Uasin Gishu. From Kose hills it goes down to join Moiben river. The boundary goes up river Moiben to the confluence of Ko'ngipsebe and Kimowo streams. It turns eastwards to cover areas of Maron sub-location in Emboput location in Marakwet District. Turning to the west it then goes to Kamolokon along Marakwet/West Pokot and Marakwet boundary. From here it drops to Sebit, Somor, then to Kongelai and up along Swom river. From Swom river to the confluence of Swom and Cheptenden river. From Cheptenden river to the confluence of Cheptenden river and Moiben river where these two rivers confluence with Kiboorom. 

Before the coming of the colonialists Sengwer lived in these areas from time Immemorial. They bordered from Nandi, Pokot (Suk), Marakwet, Uasin Gishu, Maasai, Keiyo, Karamoja, Kony and Sebei (Sabiny) communities. They had good relationship with their neighbors and they used to exchange commodities such as tools, honey, dry meat and food crops in a bartering way. Sometimes communities such as Uasin Gishu Maasai, Karamoja and Nandi seldom intrude Sengwer community. 

Since the coming of the colonialists and later other communities, Sengwer were termed as a community who does not EXIST. To date they are forced to identify themselves as Pokot, Marakwet or Keiyo. This is depicted when registering for national identification cards where recognised ethnic groups are given code numbers to facilitate the issuance of the identity cards. The not yet recognised groups like Sengwer are forced to register either as Kalenjin, Pokot, Marakwet, Nandi, Sabaot, etc. "...We are not Marakwet, but Sengwerr..." [12]. 

Sengwer owned their ancestral land communally on sub-tribe until 1911 when the Colonialists started to interfere. Sengwer had two sons named Sirikwa (elder) and Mitia. Sirikwa occupied the plains (Soi) of what is now part of Trans Nzoia, Lugari and Uasin Gishu districts. Sirikwa had his first son named Chepkoilel. The plains have since been referred to as Kapchepkoilel. The children of Sirikwa and Mitia form the sub-tribes of Sengwer. These are Kapchepororwo, Kapchepar (Kaptoyoi), Kapumpo, Kaptogom, Kapcherop, Kaki-sango, Kimarich (Kamosus), Kapsormei (Kapseto), Kapteteke, Kipsirat, Kamengetiony (Kopoch & Kapkotet), Kaplema and Kamesieu. Each sub-tribe had their portion of land running from the highlands to the plains. 


3.0 COLONIAL INJUSTICES 

"Finally, 200 years later…France has finally agreed to release the remains of a South African girl whose continued display at a French museum was once described by Time magazine as a shameful symbol of racist exploitation…her story will no doubt be the biggest symbolic triumph for Africa in its fight to seek restitution for past ills…Never was a human being exploited more than Saartjie Baartman, who was derisively known as the Hottentot Venus…Her story makes dreadful reading. It is a sad saga of exploitation of indigenous communities in Africa, and a reminder that we should not forget the past until all remedies are in place." [13]


3.1 Forced Assimilation and Loss of Identity 

Colonialist objective of forcing Sengwer community into extinction created total problem and confusion that now "…Marakwet claim that Sengwer is one of their clans. Likewise Pokot claim Sengwer is one of their clans." It is sad and inhuman. We are neither a clan of these communities. Sengwer is a distinct and separate ethnic group. 

"My evidence consisted of the requirements of the Marakwet as a whole, not particularly Cherangani, which, I understand, is part of the Marakwet." [14]

The British colonial government led to loss of Sengwer culture, language, customs and laws. We were treated as slaves in our own ancestral territory. 

Forest Preservation was more important to the British Colonizers than the tribal identity of Sengwer. 

"Yes. I feel very strongly on this question of regulating the grazing. If there is any idea, which I understand there is, of amalgamating the Elgeyo and Marakwet and Cherangani into one tribe…" [15]

"In view of the complication that would arise having Cherangany officially residing in 2 separate Districts and under 2 separate provinces. He would reluctantly agree to the move (of Cherangany from Marakwet to West Suk) out of sympathy with the District Commissioner, Tambach, Forest Preservation Policy, and provided that Cherangany in question will agree to surrender their tribal identity…" [16]

"the Cherangany from forest areas in question should move to Suk…they should become entirely merged in the Suk, Subject to Suk Chiefs, Headmen, Tribunals, Law and Custom" [17].

"I agree then the recommendation reported in the prescription that - wherever possible the Dorobo should become members of and be absorbed into the larger tribe which they have most affinity." [18] 

The British colonial government actively ensured total loss of our identity as a separate and distinct ethnic group. We were neither considered as an ethnic group nor as a people who had a right to live, right to identity, right to profess and enjoy our cultural values and traditions. 

The British colonial government marginalised, oppressed, discriminated and pushed the minority ethnic communities to the periphery. The only alternative before the colonizers was that of ensuring that the minorities are merged into the large ethnic communities. 

"I am in favour of the Uasin Gishu Maasai being moved. They are too small a community as they are to do any good to anybody. They are too small to build up any tribal organization." [19]


3.2 Alienation of Sengwer ancestral land

"The Chairman informed them that there was no question of the Europeans' land being handed back to them (Sengwer), but the commission might be able to help them in other ways." [20] 

"Land is central to many indigenous and tribal peoples' cultures and lives. It is the basis for their economic survival, their cultural spiritual well-being and their cultural identity. Thus loss of ancestral lands threatens their very survival as a community and a people" [21].

"Our greatest asset in Kenya is Land. This is the heritage we received from our forefathers. In land lies our salvation and survival. It was in this knowledge that we fought for the freedom of our country" [22].

Mr. A.C. Hoey was the first European to come into contact with the Sengwer at the end of Nandi war in 1906 [23]… "I was the first Administration Officer to be posted to Marakwet in and was there from January 1912 to November 1912. The Land survey in the North Eastern corner of Trans Nzoia took place about the beginning of 1913 and I remember that a little more land was being taken into the farm area than should be the case, thus depriving the Marakwet and Cherangany (ni) of land which they were making use…Having regard to the small numbers of cattle owned by the Marakwet and Cherangani in 1912 and the land in which they were able to use before the advent of government without undue fear of molestation from other tribes. I am of opinion that their prescriptive rights would be fairly met, if approximately 10,000 acres of the surveyed area adjoining the present reserve were handed back to them…. The person who really knows most about this peace of country in the early days, i. e. 1908-1912, is Mr. A.C. Hoey who was hunting there."[24]. 

"The surveyor who reported that there were no natives along the mountain boundary line appears to have overlooked the little patches of cultivation and the few flocks and herds among the salt-licks, and to have forgotten the fact that he placed boundary beacons by the huts then occupied by the two of the Cherangani headmen, Kiptissei and Arap Kamussein." [25]


"When Mr. Hoey was down at Hoey's (Moi's) Bridge, he asked us to come and harvest his maize, and we went from Koroesis to Hoey's Bridge. We had our cattle at Koroesis. (Koroesis is west of Mount Koibos. It is now no. 5784) We were removed from Koroesis by government declaring it farm land. We had about 20 huts there." [26]


Demarcation was done. The colonizers took away our land and evicted us mercilessly. Sengwer community members who occupied Soi (the plains of Kapchepkoilel) lost their land stretching from Kapkoi in Trans Nzoia through Naitiri to Turbo in Uasin Gishu. From Turbo it went through Ziwa (Sirikwa) and then up to Moiben. All this land was lost. 

"From the evidence gathered the Cherangani tribe would appear to have had its main settlements far down the Kaptiony and Chebororwa Valleys, where the burial places or villages of old headmen were actually pointed out, e.g. on farm 2211, the site and old shamba of Arap Mugor's father, who actually died on a visit to his son, located on 2210, where he is buried…On farm 2212, the grave of Kapsongoch Arap Soromo was pointed out." [27]


3.3 Gave Sengwer ancestral Land to other communities

The British colonial administrators facilitated the access of Sengwer ancestral land to other communities. These communities include Marakwet, Keiyo, Pokot (Suk), Nandi, etc. 

"The Marakwet have since come in between the Moyben and the Ndungiserr, and have spread beyond over the Cherangani country" [28]

"Referring to various tribes who cherish as indefixe that this district is a sort of land of Goshen or Nabott's Vineyard…and that he's hard pressed to repel their unwelcome advances. [29]

"Some time ago Mr. Hosking, the district commissioner at Marakwet and the district commissioner, Kacheliba, met on this boundary and made an arrangement by which we were deprived of a block of land. We didn't get a fair deal. Mr. Hosking said, Let us give the Suk some grass to help them, but the country will remain yours…we agreed to that and now we have lost the land. [30]

"A baraza was held at Lelan in Cherangani to consider the claims of the members of Cherangany tribe to expel the Elgeyo who now occupy the Cherangani location. The claim was based on prior occupation by the Cherangany and bad behavior taught to the Cherangani young people by the Elgeyo…in Cherangani the district commissioner inquired into the recent emigration by Elgeyo into that country. A list of 50 immigrants owning approximately 1,200 hectares was made whom it is proposed to return to their respective locations. [31]


3.4 Altered Sengwer ancestral territorial boundary

Sengwer ancestral tribal boundary was altered immediately the British came. This led to having Sengwer first in two administrative boundaries - Trans Nzoia and Elgeyo/Marakwet/Cherangany districts. Later the boundaries were changed further into four Trans Nzoia, West Suk, Elgeyo/Marakwet and Uasin Gishu districts.

The changes made in the tribal boundaries favored the recognised communities. This led to encroachment of other communities into Sengwer territory.

Since, the colonialist came upto late 1920s Sengwer community members who occupied all the land along river Suam through Kongelai near Kacheliba had their taxes paid in their Elgeyo/Marakwet/Cherangany district headquarters in Tambach.

The Elgeyo and Marakwet have districts that gather for their interests. 


3.5 Converted Sengwer ancestral land and home into government forest

"I understand that some of the Cherangani Dorobo are once more in Kapolet Forest Reserve in spite of the police raid there in last February and the severe penalties imposed in them…I would be glad if you could arrange for them to be shifted once and for all from Kapolet into West Suk Reserve before the end of the year." [32]

"The Cherangani who inhabit the South Western edge of an extensive forest and a strip of land outside the forest" [33]

Consider the following case of a triple tragedy where Sengwer lost their land, identity and leadership - In 1934 the Marakwet Local Native council in conjunction with the Forest Department, that a certain forest area in their reserve should be demarcated as Native Reserves Forest. This forest was occupied by Cherangany and had lived there for quite number of years. The District Commissioner Tambach was not willing to move the Cherangany since the area was their right. So he was not in the mood to move them against their will. Cherangany people had no otherwise other than to accept the move, but gave conditions that they'll move so long as they retain their tribal identity and subject to their chiefs.

In February, 1935 Mr. Hosking, the District Commissioner West Suk consulted the Suk headmen on this proposal. The Suk accepted.

On the 17 September 1935, a meeting took place at Kapenguria to discuss this proposal. The following were present: - (I) Mr. C.B. Thompson - officer In-charge, Turkana District, (II) Mr. I.R. Gillespie - District Commissioner, Tambach, (III) Captain M.R. Mahony - District Commissioner, West Suk and (IV) the Cherangany Chief from Marakwet.

The District Commissioner West Suk said he was unable to agree to the move on such conditions in view of the complication that would arise having Cherangany officially residing in 2 separate Districts and under 2 separate provinces. He would reluctantly agree to the move at all out of sympathy with the District Commissioner Tambach's Forest Preservation Policy and provided that Cherangany in question agree to surrender their TRIBAL INDENTITY and become entirely merged in the Suk, subject to the Suk Chiefs, Headmen, Native Tribunals and bound by Suk Native Law and Custom.

The officer in-charge of Turkana District supported this view and laid down the following condition for the move:

(I) That all the Cherangany from Forest areas in question should move to Suk or NONE at all.

(II) That they should become entirely merged in the Suk, subject to Suk Chiefs, Headmen, Tribunals, Law and Custom.

(III) That they should receive no official recognition whatsoever as Cherangany and that they would have no Chiefs or Headmen as such. [34]

All the above were done to in the spirit of Forest Preservation Policy. 

A large area of our land was converted into forests and thus denying us access to our home, herbal medicine, food and peaceful coexistence with nature. Majorities of our community members are ladles hitherto. 

The following are some of our ancestral lands that were converted into forest:

(I) Kapkanyar 70,000 acres 

(II) Kipteber 57,000 acres 

(III) Kapolet 10,800 acres 

(IV) Chemurgoi 9,800 acres 

(V) Sogotio 8,800 acres 

(VI) Kerer 5,340 acres 

(VII) Kaisingor 2,680 acres 

(VIII) Empoput 

(IX) Forests within Kitale Municipality; etc.


3.6 Denied Sengwer to have leaders of their own

The colonialist used possible means to achieve the strategy of assimilating Sengwer into the neighboring dominant communities. First strategy was to open up Sengwer territory for outsiders (population transfer) and then let the aliens be the chiefs or headmen for the Aboriginal Cherangany. 

"That they should become entirely merged in the Suk, subject to Suk Chiefs, Headmen, Tribunals, Law and Custom. That they should receive no official recognition whatsoever as Cherangany and that they would have no Chiefs or Headmen as such." [35]

"For years past, the whole of Cherangani has been under an Elgeyo chief Mr. Cheserem Arap Lesil, a post bitterly resisted by the original Cherangani…The district commissioner, Tambach, divided the Cherangani location into two parts. Lower part consisting of 3 Elgeyo locations to be under Chief Cheserem. The upper part consisting of 10 Cherangani - Marakwet locations to be under new chief Cherumpen Arap Telin. It was proposed to call the upper locations by its ancient name Sengwer and the lower Cherangani…this should put an end to the long standing feud that has existed in these parts between the immigrants (Elgeyo) and the aboriginal Cherangani" [36].


3.7 Interference with the Sengwer traditional communal land ownership

Every Sengwer sub-tribe [37] had a portion of land running from the highlands down to the plains. This system of land ownership controlled hunting, beekeeping and gathering and the sub-tribes respected it. A member from one sub-tribe could not go into another sub-tribes territory for hunting, honey collection, etc.

Unfortunately, this system was destroyed when the colonial government forcefully evicted Sengwer from the plains of Kapchepkoilel.


3.8 Destruction of the Sengwer traditional lifestyle

The colonialist introduced cattle keeping and potato planting as a measure to change the lifestyle of the Sengwer community from being hunters and gatherers. Besides, move them out of the forest. The British colonial government applied the physiologist strategy of killing a live frog by putting it in lukewarm water then gradually increase the temperature. The frog will die without realizing. 

"The Dorobo problem has risen because these people, living in small scattered groups, spread over large areas without any property…lived from hand to mouth by hunting and bee keeping…there's no reason in modern times for this precarious mode of existence and with the protection afforded by the government of these people now own stock…thereby raised themselves in the social scale and are fit to be received as a group in the larger stock owning tribes." [38]

*"It is of course argued that the Cherangani were bushmen who were induced to leave their forests…It is true that all Government officers in charge of this district have striven to persuade the Cherangani who remained in the forests to leave their Dorobo haunts and habits and become cultivators on the slopes, owners of cattle, payers of taxes, and respectable members of society [39]

"it is given on the grounds that the Cherangani when I first came into the country had no stock, but the Administration Officers did their utmost to persuade the Cherangani to adopt an entirely different mode of life and become stockowners, and to cultivate a good deal more than they had done in the past, and, in fact, I think completely altered the character of those people…" [40]

"Chairman: What would you say their mode of life was before they were encouraged to acquire stock, etc. Mr. Hoey: I think they were living on the edge of the forest, growing their small patches of wimbi, and living practically by hunting; honey-pots, shooting monkeys, and that sort of thing." [41]


3.9 Discrimination in distributing Native Reserves

"the term racial discrimination shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life." [42]

"in many regions of the world indigenous peoples have been, and are still being, discriminated against and deprived of their human rights and fundamental freedoms and in particular they have lost their land and resources to colonialists, commercial companies and State enterprises. Consequently, the preservation of their culture and their historical identity has and still is being jeopardized." [43]

While other communities were given native reserves, Sengwer community was not considered. 

"I agree then the recommendation reported in the prescription that - wherever possible the Dorobo should become members of and be absorbed into the larger tribe which they have most affinity." [44]

"Yes. I have quite a good bit to say on that. I have been over the Elgeyo and Marakwet Reserves…" [45]

The colonialist did not consider us as human beings, hence gave part of our ancestral land as native reserves for immigrants. 


3.10 Converted part of Sengwer ancestral land to a game park

Part of Sengwer ancestral land in Trans Nzoia was converted into a game park. It is now known as Saiwa Swamp National Park. This was and is still a home for wild animals. This area was one of the most prestigious hunting areas of the Sengwer people.

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