Kenyan Ogiek Leader Says He
Received Death Threat
By Joe De Capua
14 February 2008
A leader of Kenya’s Ogiek people says while violence against his
people has eased, he himself has received a death threat. The
Ogiek live in the Mau Forest in the Rift Valley and are among East
Africa’s few remaining hunter-gatherers.
Mpoiko Kobei says during the recent political violence, Ogiek
homes were burned and several Ogiek were shot. He blames it on his
people’s support for opposition leader Raila Odinga. Kobei spoke
to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the
death threat on 12 February.
“Somebody called me and they told me they need my head …and he
said in Kiswahili…’have you heard we need your head before Tuesday
(19 February),’ he says. Kobei says the caller used a public phone
booth to keep his identity secret.
“Then…in the same area where the Ogiek are, the same people are
telling people that they need this person…right now. I’m one of
the leaders of the community and I’ve been leading an NGO called
the Ogiek People’s Development Program. It happened that I also
became part of the ODM (Odinga’s party) movement…now that there’s
been some post-election violence I realize that some people may be
trying to take advantage of that to hurt my life,” he says.
He says he reported the incident to police, who eventually found a
suspect and warned him not to harm him. However, he says police
have offered him no special protection. “My movement is now
somehow curtailed,” he says.
As for the overall violence against the Ogiek, he says, “Currently
things are calm with the arrival of (AU mediator) Kofi Annan.
People are now coming back to their homes because now people are
foreseeing (sic) there might be some peace, though reconciliation
and mediation are not yet complete. Things are not as bad as
People are rebuilding their houses and recovering their animals.
However, he says, “There’s still some animosity between the
communities…but there is no physical fight so far.”