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Ogiek Land Cases
Historical Injustices

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Chapter 7: Dispossession

East Mau

     Twelve major clans of 543 families with a total population of 5,484 members communally own the East Mau Forest. The land is held under customary tenure. This form of tenure is what the current advocates of market economy are seeking to nullify at the pretext of poverty reduction and conservation.

     The East Mau Ogiek are set to lose a total area of 35,301.01 hectares and a further 901.62 hectares if the decision by the minister for Environment and Natural Resources to alter the forest boundaries is implemented. The only consolation is that the new regime has promised to restore the rule of law. Ministers have on their part pledged to revoke all the forest excisions done by the previous regimes. The judicial review filed by the environmental groups was set to be heard by a two-judge bench on 24 March, 2003. It will now be heard by a three judge bench, this might be possible in early 2004.

     On that date the government seemed to have changed their mind after failing to justify their acts. This is what they told the Chief Justice. State lawyer Muthoni Kimani said consultations were going on over the government decision to alter boundaries involving 175,000 acres. She told CJ Evans Gicheru that she needed more time to get instructions from the Chief Conservator of Forests, Mr Gideon Gathara, who has since retired on inefficiency and incompetence grounds, alongside 829 forestry officials. The Minister went ahead to make good his intention as per the contents of the Kenya Subsidiary Legislation of 19 October 2001, Legal Notices Nos. 145 and 142 of Molo Forest and Eastern Mau Forest respectively.

     Historically, this was to be the biggest threat to Ogiek of East Mau for they were totally opposed to the settlement process, that would propagate serious erosion of the Ogiek identity, culture and language via assimilation and related processes. This is tantamount to colonisation for which the community has been struggling against for the last hundred years. This propelled them to seek a court order to bar the minister’s decision. This to them was a serious mockery of the courts and the law process.

With the existence of the court orders the Ogiek suit has been and is being rendered a big joke, by the ongoing demarcations and allocations and to a larger extent the gazette notices and the legal notices by the successive Ministers for Environment and Natural Resources.
               — Survival International bulletin (2002)

     This is an indication of how the Kenya Government has maintained a policy, to frustrate all the efforts aimed at legal recognition and protection for Ogiek traditional lands, culture, ethnic identity and language.

     In 1995, the provincial administration refused to recognize the Ogiek land demarcation and allocation exercise. They sent surveyors to begin the work afresh thus marking the genesis of the exodus to Mau Forest that followed. As a first step government draws allotment letters under the heading “Allocation of land at Mauche Settlement Scheme” and each household is entitled to a five acre piece of land. This was a great mockery that rekindled the Ogiek wrath, making them decline the offer and further to march to Kabarak in protest in a bid to see the Head of State. The marches of 14 July, 1995 and 23 July, 1995 were not successful but showed that the Ogiek could not be cowed easily. Attempts by the State House schemers were unsuccessful forcing them to rethink their strategies.

     Secret intelligence groups were sent, all disguised as friendly people who were ready to assist the Ogiek to see the Head of State. The information they gathered was used to kill our plans. The press were hijacked and driven to Tinet where they covered the Tinet Ogiek plight. This was followed by Mr. Ismail Chelang’a’s visit to Nessuit Primary School on 4 September, 1995. He issued a scathing attack on his hosts for being cheated not to accept the offer he initiated in good faith. The elders maintained that they were opposed to the five acres arrangement and further they were not ready to welcome the selected beneficiaries to their ancestral lands. They demanded that they only needed a boundary to separate the proposed forest area and the yet to be, Ogiek trust land. The meeting ended up unceremoniously with both sides dissatisfied, even after the Provincial Commissioner employed four Ogiek youth in the Administration Police Unit, a gesture meant to buy the Ogiek trust in government plans and programmes.

     Back at State House a scheme was worked out. The more than three thousand people in Nessuit slums were moved to Teret, Likia and Sururu areas where the demarcation and allocation started in earnest. Private surveyors were employed to speed up the work while four thousand of their brothers were transported in government lorries to join the three thousand plus people. They were given acting leaders, served with relief food and mobile clinics. They were also given handouts in form of cash and were allowed to sell the trees to meet their needs. Indeed, they were comforted and warmly welcomed. Forest officials were transferred from these stations so as to ease the settlement process. The forests were set on fire, mounted sawmills were banned in Mt. Kenya, but allowed in the newly settled areas, thus marking the exodus of the sawmills and timber merchants to this area to make a kill. The mature trees were sold for as little as one hundred Kenyan shillings or even less.

     The felling of trees and forest burning saw the extermination of bees as well as uncontrolled hunting, thus marking the genesis of the Ogiek economic destruction, suffocation and suppression. To conceal the conspiracy, the Kipsigis were sneaked to Sate House on 4th November, 1995 where they masqueraded as Ogiek and were granted audience. The press also highlighted this occasion. This was done after the Ogiek were able to meet Hon. William Ole Ntimama, Member of Parliament, Narok North who promised them that he would take them to see the Head of State over the invasion of their ancestral lands. After this State House coup the Ogiek were furious, but consoled by the knowledge that there was a very good chance to meet the Head of State on 17 November, 1995 during the 42nd World Ploughing Competition at Egerton University. State House machinery schemed to block them from seeing the Head of State.

     On that day, the same Kipsigis were lined up at Njoro, near the District Officer’s offices to give a rousing welcome to the President, who addressed them and urged them to quickly develop their new pieces of land. The Ogiek’s bid was totally shut out and on learning what had transpired, they went home and planned a major march to State House the following day. As part of the plan, it was suggested that the Ogiek put on their traditional attire and march throughout the night so that by dawn, they would be approaching Nakuru town. The march attracted about 300 Ogiek, all dressed in their traditional attire ready to challenge the gods of life dispossession.

     Word quickly reached the State House machinery and the hostile provincial administration. The next day, the Ogiek were intercepted at Total roundabout, about three kilometres from State House, Nakuru where they were violently dispersed. Luckily enough the press covered the incident and further in its Sunday Edition of the Daily Nation of 26 November, 1995, the Ogiek plight was covered, titled, “The scramble for Dorobo (Ogiek) country”. On the same day at State House, members of the Endorois community were meeting President Moi over their lands in Marmanet forest and Lake Bogoria Game Reserve revenue. A meeting addressed by DC Noor Aden at Mariashoni on 29 November, 1995 ended unceremoniously when Ogiek left the baraza.

     Since then, things have never been the same again. The Ogiek thought of new ways of challenging the land thieves. A strong committee of young patriotic youth was put in place to map out strategies. The vision crafted was that the planned scheme must be opposed at all costs including any government planned barazas. The provincial administration was seen as determined enemies of Ogiek people.

     In 1996, the Ogiek started by identifying with human rights and environment groups. They explored the legal avenues where an advocate’s services were sought, with a detailed memorandum prepared and forwarded to members of parliament to seek help. This was on 16 July, l996.

     The first move by the establishment was to hunt down all the Ogiek rights activists. This saw the mass arrests of the Ogiek youth and elders who were charged with incitement, illegal meetings and gatherings, membership of unlawful organisations, aiding prisoners to escape, sabotage and arson. A total of 67 Ogiek were arrested and locked up for three weeks before being released on bond. One year later the charges were dropped by the state.

     In 1997, the government conspired to kill the Ogiek fighting spirit. It employed divide and rule policy. The first move was made on 10 January, 1997 when a few moderate Ogiek elders were sneaked to Kabarak where they were granted audience by the President. Their talks dwelt mostly on development in which the President supported and further cautioned them against involving outsiders in their land problem and further warned them from allowing their sons to divulge government secrets to the press. He said that this was the only way the settlement process would be smooth. He promised more political favours after the general elections.

     After this visit, the Provincial Commissioner Mr. Yusuf Haji visited the Ogiek on 21 January, 1997 and repeated the same message. He further cautioned the Ogiek not to sue the government if they expected political favours and peace.

     On 19 February, 1997, Mr. Kinuthia Mbugua, the District Commissioner was at Mariashoni again with the same message. In March 1997, Both Mr. Kinuthia Mbugua and Mr. Yusuf Haji allocated themselves pieces of land at Ngongogeri area of Mariashoni location with each getting thirty and ninety acres respectively. They have since subdivided and sold the lands, thus setting the phase for other senior government officials. Mr. Haji opposed the Kenya Forest Working Group visit to Mau forest and on 2nd and 22nd April, 1997 the second Ogiek crackdown was witnessed, with the arrest of Joseph Letuya, Simon Rana, Semboi Oris and some elderly women by both uniformed and plain clothed police.

     When the legislature mocked the Ogiek land claims, the Ogiek mapped out new strategies. On 25th June 1997, the Ogiek filed a HCCA No. 635/97 against the authorities and obtained a court order on 15th October 1997 stopping further allocation and demarcation of the disputed lands. Among the declarations sought in this case were:

  1. A declaration that the right to life of every member of the Ogiek community in Mau East forest including the applicants has been contravened and is being contravened by forceful eviction from their parcels of land in the Mau Forest and the alleged settlement by the Rift Valley Provincial Administration of other persons from Kericho, Bomet and Baringo to the exclusion of the applicants.
  2. A declaration that the eviction of the applicants and other members of the Ogiek community from their land in Mau Forest and settlement of other people on their land by the Rift Valley Provincial Administration is a contravention of their right to protection by law and their right not to be discriminated against under Sections 77 and 82 of the Constitution.
  3. A declaration that the alleged settlement scheme under which the Rift Valley Forest Officer (PFO) and Nakuru DC are allocating to persons from Kericho, Bomet, Transmara and Baringo districts the applicants’ land in the Mariashoni location, Elburgon division and Nessuit location, Njoro division and Nakuru district occupied by the applicants is ultra vires the Agriculture Act, Chapter 318 and the Forest Act, Chapter 385 and is null and void.
  4. An order restraining the second and third respondents (the Rift Valley PC and PFO respectively) from allocating the applicants’ land to other persons to the exclusion of the applicants.
  5. An order restraining the fifth respondent (Wilson Chepkwony) from interfering with the first, second and third applicants (Joseph Letuiya, Patrict Kuresy and James Rana respectively) use of their parcels of land in Mariashoni location, Elburgon division.
  6. An order that the fourth respondent (DC, Nakuru) do remove forthwith from Sururu, Likia, Teret and Sigotik forests and Mariashoni and Nessuit all persons who have purportedly been allocated the land belonging to the applicants.
  7. An order that the first respondent do pay compensation to the applicants.

     On 22 October, 1997, the government defended itself through the then Nakuru DC, Mr. Kinuthia Mbugua. He swore an affidavit on 22 October and told the court on behalf of the government that:

  1. The Mau forest is a gazetted government forest and the Ogiek have been using it illegally.
  2. The settlement scheme covers only the plantation area and does not affect the indigenous forestland.
  3. The settlement scheme does not involve indigenous forestland from which the community, if it so desires will still be able to gather herbs, honey and fruits in the traditional manner.
  4. The plantation forestland is the property of the government who planted the trees therein for environmental and economic purposes.
  5. The applicants would be treated for the purpose of the settlement as any other landless Kenyan without discrimination on account of clan, tribe, religion and place of origin or any other local connection.
  6. The Mau Forest is a gazetted government forest and not a reserve of the Ogiek community as ancestral land.

     The continued surveying of the Ogiek ancestral lands, saw the Pokots community too coming for their share. A word has it the at sixteen hundreds Pokots were to be allocated five acre parcel of land at Logoman forests. The exercise started late 1999 and was to be concluded early 2000. they were to be drawn from East Baringo and West Pokot. The exercise was marked by slow demarcation caused by the thick indigenous forest. The first group of six hundred had to spend several mouths in the thick forests where they were discovered by the Ogiek hunters working on their guns. Word quickly spread and as we alighted via the media and protestory letters, the Pokot who could not take chances, came in dozens by lorries, thus occasioning blackouts in Nakuru district. The five thousand Pokots took from Narok district, who despite reporting of lost cows to relevant authorities, saw new faces who were said to be allocating the whole forest block for themselves. The government moved quickly to evacuate the Pokots. Councillor Letulal was promised to be given the Kiptunga and Lengape areas for his Maasai and Samburu groups. He was assured that no forest block will be left unsettled. This new development leads to total burning of all the indigenous forest.

     The East Mau Ogiek forwarded a memorandum to the Kenya Land Commission of Enquiry into land law system of Kenya chaired by Hon. Charles Njonjo on 29 January, 2000 and were never accorded audience despite the promise. The commission has compiled its report and forwarded it to the former president who in turn dissolved it. Its findings were made public by the minister for Lands and Settlement, Hon. Amos Kimunya.

     Under Gazette Notice No. 6593 of 17 November, 1999, The President appointed a commission to inquire into the land law system of Kenya. The terms of reference of the commission were:

  1. to undertake a broad view of land issues in Kenya and to recommend the main principles of a land policy framework which would foster an economical efficient, socially equitable and environmentally sustainable land tenure and use system;
  2. to undertake an analysis of the legal and institutional framework of land tenure and land use in Kenya and to recommend a programme or programmes of legislation that would give effect to such polices;
  3. to recommend guidelines for a basic land law and complementary legislation and associates subsidiary legislation which would address, inter alia, the following issues:-
    1. the systems of land tenure appropriate for the country;
    2. the system of land ownership and control;
    3. the system of acquisition and disposition of land rights whether by inheritance or otherwise;
    4. the structural framework for the administration of all categories of land whether state, communal or private including the consolidation, updating and improvement of all procedural legislation relating to the registration of titles to and of all other instruments concerning dealings with land and of interests and rights therein, thereto or there over;
    5. the structural framework and principles for the administration and management of protected areas including wildlife sanctuaries, coastal and marine zones, wetlands, catchments areas, forest and nature reserves;
    6. the system of land use, planning, management and development;
    7. the process of land delivery including survey, registration and the preparation of official records relevant to such survey and registration;
    8. the structural framework for the processing and settlement of land disputes;
    9. the replacement of the foreign applied laws.
    10. The repeal and/or replacement of all laws deemed to be obsolete;
  4. to take into account all customary laws relating to land and so far as is practicable to incorporate such of those laws, with such modifications, if any, as may be considered to be desirable for the purpose of making them consonant with present-day conditions;
  5. to incorporate in such new legislation, if thought desirable in the interests of the people of Kenya, with or without modifications, the provision of any laws of other states relating to the tenure of or dealings with land and of any rights of interests thereto or therein;
  6. to prepare a draft or drafts of such new or amending legislation as may be necessary to implement the recommendations of the commission to be developed as indicated above; and
  7. to make such further recommendations as the commission may deem necessary.

     The commission called up on relevant government ministries and institutions; state corporations; professional societies; non governmental organisation; interest groups and individuals to submit to it written memoranda.

     The then President of Kenya, Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi at the State House, on the eve of the new year, had this to say:

My government has addressed the issue of environmental degradation in several ways. I have given instructions to the relevant Ministry to restore forest boundaries in all areas where harvesting of trees for timber has taken place, and from this year onwards, replanting must take place. I have already authorised the importation of timber for commercial use and I will expect that this measure will take away pressure from our meagre forest resources. I expect our learning institutions, including schools, polytechnics and universities to lead the way in environmental conservation and regeneration.
               — Daily Nation, January 2, 2001

     The most visible disguise under which the government has continued to evict the Ogiek has been that of resettlement. For instance, when the Ogiek were evicted from Tinet in 1939, they were said to have been resettled in Chepalungu and Olenguruone which were referred to as Native Settlement Areas. However, some of those who went to Chepalungu got sick and died due to unfavourable climate, hence, the rest returned to Tinet and Olenguruone. This forceful resettlement, was only welcomed by members of the Kipsigis community who masqueraded as the Ogiek and took claim of Ogiek ancestral lands. In 1941, a settlement scheme was initiated at Olnguruone area, hived out of Narok, but the scheme went to the Kalenjin members. The same scenario has been repeated occasionally. For instance, since 1991 and even earlier, the land buying companies of Kalimbula Investment Squatter Company and Kalembula Housing Co-operative Society, both headed by Mr. Gerald Njoroge and Mr. Gachie Wamboto respectively.

     During its year of operations, they did recruite members to buy the land in the Mau Forest Complex. The initial 411 people accepted by the late Thomas Saiyalel Ngayami had the blessing of those organisations. By 2001, the Kalimbula Investment Squatters Company, commissioned a physical planning survey of an area of 11736 hectares in the Mau East. The land is known as Mau Narok East. The land registration No. is LR No. 4426. This is the one area that constitute the 35,000 hectares proposed for excision in the Mau East Forest Complex. Of late the government has been crying foul that the organisations are illegal, although they have been in existence since 1986. The firms are based in Nyeri, but has offices in Nakuru and Laikipia districts.

     The biggest irony is how the government were able to receive the societies physical planning and approving the same. Evident to this is the letter signed by the then Assistant Minister for Environment and Natural Eesources Hon. Stephen Ole Ntutu in February 2002.

     This confirm to us the nature of the business that flourished as a result of the resettlement process which was initiated by the Kanu regime. Indeed it would be right to say that for any looting that took place in our forest, the regime had a share of the spoils. Of late the Nyeri District Commissioner was quoted saying, “we are using relevant authorities to investigate if there is such a land for sale in Nakuru and Laikipia districts”. This is being the greatest joke of the millennium as the security machinery in these districts to have been part of the general mess.

     The firm which did the physical planning is the firm of J.M. Ohas Company.

     On the other hand, livestock diseases were used as the major excuse to justify the colonial harassment and evictions. Today, lack of civilisation and underdevelopment are being used to justify the government assimilative policies and programmes. While the colonial authorities employed game officers and forestry officials to help carry out their intended acts, today the provincial administration and the development agencies are being used to carry on the proposed activities.

     In spite of the Ogiek land question being raised in Parliament in the 1970s, the hostile response ensured that it always ended up prematurely. Consequently, the Ogiek continue to suffer as a result of improper settlement that among other things denied their children access to formal education and quality education due to unplanned transfer from one school to another. In Narok, the Ogiek co-exist with the Maasai. The land is communally owned under the Group Representative Act commonly referred as Group Ranches. In these ranches, the Ogiek are also stakeholders but when it comes to compiling up the members names in the register, the Ogiek youth names are deliberately left out. This means that they are not entitled to get lands and other benefits that go alongside it. The elders who happened to be lucky to get lands are slowly disinherited by the Maasai or made to sell the very same land to the Maasai at throw away prices. However, the Ogiek have not been passive as they have actively fought for their cause. The latest attempt was made by Joseph Towett in a memorandum addressed to the Provincial Commissioner, Rift Valley Province, on the Koibatek communities’ plight and this received a good reaction and by November 2001, the families were promised resettlement.

     Since the whole resettlement scheme had a political agenda, the then government was not ready to face the legal challenges, instead, it successfully manipulated the laws and the courts in order to settle political scores as is evident from the acts below:

     In conclusion, the Ogiek community identity and culture was and is still being nullified, their significant contribution to the rich Kenyan history notwithstanding.

     With the change of guard in the political arena, it would be unfair to accuse the new government at this early stage, but it is safe to point out that what the former regime did and the path it pursued, negatively impacted on the Ogiek lives. Any process aimed at securing the Ogiek rights should begin with the shortcomings of the former administrations. To be friendlier and reverse the conquering and subdue policies, is the road map to peace.

     Politicians should look for other ways of securing votes, besides repayments of their loans. President Kibaki on 18th/2/2003, during the state opening of the ninth parliament, had the following to say about our forests:

     Mr. Speaker, we all know that water is life. My government is committed to ensuring that Kenyans have access to clean water. Plans are underway to carry out institutional reforms within the water sectors. This will separate matters of policy formulation, regulation and water service delivery.

     Sustainable development depends on prudent management of our environment. Honourable members know that this country is faced with serious environmental degradation. This is due to reckless destruction of our forests and catchments areas. My government promises to move fast. It will put in place measures to rehabilitate and protect our environment. I want to declare that, from now on, anyone caught destroying forest and water catchment areas, will face the full force of law.

     The recently concluded UNEP meeting in Nairobi called for tough environmental laws to protect the rich biodiversity. The meeting came up with serious environmental policies and resolutions, with the toughest challenges as noted being the actual implementation.


     This is an area inhabited mostly by the Maasai and the Ogiek who number about 3000 in the whole district. The land is communally owned under the Group Representative Act commonly referred to as Group Ranches. In these ranches, the Ogiek are also stakeholders. However, when it comes to compiling up the members’ names in the register, the Ogiek youth names are deliberately left out.

     Some 200 members of Ogiek community in this region were evicted from Esinoni Group Ranch and six elders were arrested. Sources reveal that the purported land had a court injunction in suit No. 19 of 1997 and the local district officer had ordered the eviction. The elders were later released on bond of K. shs 20,000 though this happened after spending several days in police custody. In the month of October 2003, the District Officer, Ololulunga division Mr. Richard Ojwang, in cahoots with the local Maasai leaders, instigated a few arrests of the Ogiek leaders on fabricated charges which could not stand in courts. These barbaric acts are meant to make the local white farmers loosened the cash strings from his wallet for that was the land leasing season. This translates to and those who have shall be added and those who have not even the little they have shall be taken away from them, a direct implementation of a biblical verse in the book of Mathew chapter 35.

     In the same region, there also exists another case No. 7 of 1999, Isaiah Cheluget Vs Ogiek elders. Mr. Cheluget once served as a civil servant in the Kanu government, as a Provincial Commissioner. We have also the Enosupukia Ogiek/Dorobo who have been in the centre of the conflict especially the famous ’92 ethnic clashes where they were victimised. Like the rest of the community they have no permanent settlement. The Ndabibi and Moi Ndabi ADC farms which are in their midst subdivided and allocated to outsiders were as they watched only at a distance. They were evicted from fertile places in their ancestral lands and today they live in slopes that are economically unfit for human habitation besides contravening the Agriculture Act. The Sasimuanik and Engaroni Ogiek face the same problem. They are constantly disinherited their birthrights by mainstream societies. Like their counterpart Enoosupukias’, Esinoni and Engaroni group too were affected by clashes. Recent clashes in Mulot area cost them losses when their houses were torched, property looted and displaced, to the colds.

     Spiritually, they have not been left out. They are God fearing people. With the help of missionaries they have constructed an educational centre and several worship centres. Majority of them belong to AIC Church.

     The ruling of SRMCC 19/97 - Narok in Simon Kiwape and 19 others verses Muneria Naimodu and 2 others. dated 27/2/2001 delivered by Narok resident Magistrate S.K. Koros, cancelled all the titles of Esinoni Group Ranch Land Ref: Narok Cis-mara/Olololunga/133 as the learned Magistrate was able to note that, the officials of the ranch continued with their subdivision and allocation in total contravention of the orders of the court and with full knowledge of the cases in which they are named as respondent. The major aim of their acts was to fully lock out the applicants from getting a share of the ranch. It has since been established and confirmed that the applicants are bona fide members of the ranch.

     The respondents have since contested the ruling by appealing in the superior court where appeal No. 164/2001 was heard and determined, with the applicants winning the case. While on the ground, the local Maasai and their allies, the Kipsigis instigated a land clash on the dates of 4-8 July, 2001 which has so far led to the displacement of the Ogiek families in this ranch. A visit to the ranch on 11 and 12 November, 2001 revealed that the families had sought refuge on the nearby group ranches. The Maasai totally barred the families from coming back and further accused them of abandoning the Maasai at the height of the ethnic clashes.

     Their appeal was unsuccessful and, therefore, the courts decision that the titles be cancelled can not be challenged. Where this is not the case then corruption can not be ruled out, as this is the only monster that defies the law. With the change in regime things are bound to change totally as political and corruption patronage comes to an end. The Ogiek families have since supported the minister’s decision to introduce second generation title deeds. Sadly, it seems there would be more parties for there are already people who have bought pieces of land in these disputed areas.

     Some people are eyeing the land to buy and have grown impatient as the courts take long and also seem to be bending towards the Ogiek, which was against the interests of the already established officials-cum-elites. This scene is repeated in most of the group ranches Sasumuani, Olmekenyu, Enkaroni, Enosubukia, and Olokurto where Ogiek are found. In most of these areas, the Ogiek have abandoned their land rights crusades in exchange for peace. For instance, as early as 1970s, the local Maasais who viewed the forest as empty, with the help of their leaders subdivided the lands irrespective of Ogiek protests. This led to serious degradation of the forests thus occasioning the 1986 evictions, which had disastrous effects to the already marginalised Ogiek. They were allowed back in 1992, as multiparty drew closers and today they are faced with evictions as the authorities move into arrest the already escalating environmental degradation. The threat is repeated in all Ogiek groupings. But in areas such as Olpusimoru, the Kimisoi family have found it rough. Mr. Ole Ruba Kutu’s parcel of land was invaded by the local Maasai, subdivided and sold. The original plot no. 347 were retained to conceal the conspiracy. This is how it was shared:

     Another portion of land was taken over for the construction of a primary school. The Kimisoi family have made several appeals to the former ministers for lands and settlement without success They have followed all the complaints channels but the land sharks interest were no match, today all the parties have titles to prove that they own the land. The historic injustices continue. They wrote to the Kenya Land Commission of Inquiry into Land Laws and Systems, chaired by Charles Mugane Njonjo, who replied but ever since their promise of action by the Ministry of Lands, seems to be a foregone issue. The only hope might be the presidential land commission, which was recently given a six months mandate. This is only possible if their recommendations are followed which included titles cancellation.

     Marinwa, Sogoo and Olloigero families have been battling one senior and powerful man, Mr. Isaiah Cheluget and retired Chief Sangale. It is said Mr. Sangale gave Mr. Cheluget 200 acres of land as a friendship gesture in return for political favours. Mr. Sangale was a chief, while Cheluget was a Provincial Commissioner. The main reason, was to strengthen the land subdivision process. Mr. Cheluget used his influential position in liaison with surveyors to acquire a huge chunk of land. His insatiable greed made him get more land and thus preyed on the above families’ land taking about 7000 acres. The families did not raise a finger as by that time he was a very powerful person (Provincial Administrator) and was many kilometres away and only used provincial administration police and officials to protect the land. He is known to have come once and intimidated the local elders, and gave them blankets and some money, a tricky way to buy blessings and assurance.

     During the second adjudication process, the above families lodged complaints with the newly formed land tribunals, thanks to the enactment of the Land Disputes Tribunal Act. The sons of these families Mr. David Mopir, Kamalel Koko, Sigilai Taukei, Joseph Tanki, Kikprop Arap Koko and Maiyo Sang presented the detailed complaint to the tribunal who on assessing the facts approved the restoration of the families’ land. This decision angered Cheluget who moved to court to quash the decision of the tribunal. Judge Andrew Hayanga, dismissed the tribunal findings and thus restored the land to the powerful man, a sure manifestation of how the laws are made for the weak and poor but not for the rich and powerful. The case has so far moved to the Court of Appeal. In the course of the hearing of the matter, it was discovered that in Nairobi, the acreage was more in the map while at the Rift Valley Provincial offices, the map showed a smaller space hence giving the families a legitimate claim.

     So far a permanent secretary in the Ministry of Lands, Mr. Ngeno, has ordered that the disputed piece of land be registered in the name of Mr. Isaiah Cheluget a manifestation of how the powerful are defended by the powerful. The court battle continues! On the ground, criminal charges have been preferred against the leaders of these families, a way of silencing them. With the formation of a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, a Pandora’s box will be opened.

Enoosupukia Region

     This is region 5000 feet above the sea level, with fertile soils and a high agricultural potential area as well as a water catchment to a number of rivers and streams.

     Ogiek (Dorobo) from Enooseyia, Ilkirragarien, Olmurutie, Ilekinkish and Enoosupukia settled in their present areas before the colonial era. A big population of Ogiek in Mau division (Narok) is settled in Enoosupukia. The Ogiek living in Enoosupukia and Enooseyia are called the Saleita. The Ilkiragarien group are called Olkume, and Ilekiminkish group are called Ilesinoni. The Naro-sura group are called Ildikiri. All these groups combined have 127 families, who constitute three major clans of Ilmakesen, Ilkumae and Ilaiser.

     It is believed that they settled in their present place before 18th century. The environment suits their way of life, as there are plenty of herbs for their health and good neighbourhood. Nobody did any allotment, but according to them, Enkai or Tororo (God) did. Therefore, they believed that nobody could take from them what God gave them. The community is a Maa-speaking group although they are referred to as Dorobo. They are a social to people they know and they hide when a stranger passes by. Their environment guarantees herbs, health, weather and good neighbourhood. Hunting and gathering is considered God given rights, agriculture food stuffs are only a supplement.

     With the environmental changes that are impacting negatively on them, they have started adapting their neighbours’ lifestyles of farming, from the Kikuyu and livestock keeping from the Maasai. They live along the plains of the Loita Trust Land in Naimina Enkiyio Forest. Here, they hunt wild animals and keep bees in rock/stone, tree and earthen caves. Their living standard is very low as compared to the one of the Ogiek living in Mau division and the rest of the Ogiek territories.

     They have enjoyed long periods of peace with very little interruption. This dream was suddenly halted on 26 March, 2002 by the District Officer, Mau division in the company of councillors Lorema Ole Surum of Keekonyokie ward and Tilal Ole Sunguiya together with other administrators. Also present were the Deputy Forest Officer and Divisional Forest Officer. They issued a fourteen day eviction notice after which they would be forcefully evicted.

     The eviction threat was made good by the then Narok District Commissioner, Mr. Joseph Kimiywi. Although the move was politically motivated, it was meant to give the local councillors a chance to reward their followers under a planned renewed land adjudication process.

     The residents of this area say that the first land adjudication process took place in 1984. At around the same period when all the development plans had been finalised, the local Maasai took advantage and sold the land to the farming communities. Ten years later, the people were violently evicted by the very locals occasioning massive loss of life. The reasons given were that the farming communities had interfered with water catchments leading to the drying up of rivers and other watering points. Ever since this eviction, of the Kikuyu, Purko, the Keekonyokie and Samburu, the Ogiek have known no peace. Those who left, questioned the arrangement of having this group left behind. It was seen as a special favour.

     Though all these groups speak the Maa dialect, they still observe and practice their own rites of passage. Child naming and dispute resolution mechanisms have roots in the Ogiek traditions and way of life.

     With the ongoing political, economic and cultural persecutions, the group is yearning for a place to call home, a very logical belief shared by all Ogiek separate entities.

     Politically, the community is only valued when it approaches the electioneering period simply because of their votes. They were not given any civic education, and were only told to vote for the ruling party without being given the benefits. In an official government letter dated 8 June, 1967 Ref: No.ADM.15/28/3/Vol.11/18, headed RE: DOROBO REPRESENTATIVE IN KEEKONYOKIE SECTION: WRITTEN BY Mr. J.Z Rongomas who was the then District Commissioner, promises are made for security and related concerns. The welfare is given weight, which gives an impression that this was a mere acknowledgement that this group exists.

Southwest and Western Mau


     This is an area inhabited by Tinet Ogiek (commonly known as Ogiek op Om). It is also an area where many evictions targeting the Ogiek have been registered. A total of sixteen evictions are on record. The government started the subdivision and allocation processes in this area about eight years ago. The beneficiaries of the settlement have been government officials, politicians, businessmen and people from the neighbouring Kalenjin districts. The locals have been taken for a ride and only three hundred and fourteen grown up adults are genuine.

     The assumption by the colonial authorities, is that the Ogiek were officially moved to Chepalungu where an area of 98 kilometres square was earmarked for their settlement. Practically, this was not the case, instead, it was a justification for their settling white settlers within Ogiek ancestral lands. This could be attributed to the quick recommendations that the Ogiek be moved to the reserves of people with whom they had the closest affinity. The fact is that the Ogiek never moved to Chepalungu but instead moved deeper into the forest. Those who moved to Chepalungu were the Kipsigis who had masqueraded as the Ogiek. In Tinet area, there are approximately 2000 Ogiek, the rest are Ogiek impostors. This population includes children and those whose identities are still doubted.

     Between 1939-1941 the Ogiek were said to have been chased out of Tinet. It is further alleged that some were taken to Chepalungu and Olenguruone. Their houses were burnt and cattle confiscated by the colonial government, but they later returned to Tinet because of unfavourable climate. They were chased away again around 1954/1955 but returned to Tinet. These evictions were vicious in nature, the reasons are that, the people to be evicted had no fixed abodes, leave alone property. They had no alternative homes within the forest and could thus move from one home to the other without being seen or discovered. The question of relocation, therefore, can not arise and this raises questions as to the government claims of relocation and the subsequent compensation. The oral history of the community on the ground does not give account of migration.

     In 1977, the government sought to forcefully evict them from Tinet. Their houses, schools and shopping centres were completely burnt down, livestock sold and all their properties destroyed. Most of them were either imprisoned or fined. In 1980-81, the government agreed to their request to be allowed temporally stay in forest stations as squatters until their fate could be decided upon.

     They were not allowed to cultivate or keep livestock, which start to cultivate food crops. They were allowed to construct temporary structures and the normal honey collection, hunting and gathering rights. In 1985 they were evicted again by the government and their houses, schools, and shopping centres burnt. Their properties were also destroyed. They were herded back to the forest stations where they were surrounded by security personnel who harassed and intimidated them. This brutality and lack of respect for the Ogiek dignity included raping and molesting of women and girls.

     The latest eviction threat was curiously issued in a 7-minute meeting where the local district commissioner gave the Ogiek a 14-day ultimatum to leave Tinet. This was in May 1999, it followed utterances by the local Member of Parliament to the effect that the Ogiek should be driven from the forest. Moreover, there was harassment of the Tinet Chief by the District Officer and his enforcers, which the Ogiek protested against by demonstrating in public.

     The latest eviction attempt, which targeted the Ogiek while leaving the other beneficiaries intact, forced the Ogiek to go to court and file suite No. 238 of 1999. The case was highly contested by both parties to challenge the government’s eviction order. The legal advise the district commissioner received from the government legal adviser and which the court admitted as the correct position is that “The rights and freedoms enshrined in the constitution are subject to limitations designed to ensure that their enjoyment by any individual does not prejudice the rights and freedoms of others or the public interests”.

     The court further upheld that the applicants did not give the details of the other persons in this forest. The questions they were to answer are:

     Finally, the community challenge was dismissed on environmental grounds. They were given a fortnight to appeal. Following this decision, the community is said to be on temporary stay notice of the High Court awaiting formal appeal. Ironically, exactly one year later, the minister for Environment and Natural Resources issued a gazette notice with the intention of altering the forest boundaries and excising an area approximately 167,000 hectares. The latest development is case No.38 of 2001 by an environmental lawyer, in Eldoret High Court where an application was filed seeking to quash the gazette notices that sought to alter the forest boundaries. The Ogiek who were in the government side lost the court case for the second successive time. The community were seeking to be enjoined in the suit but the court dismissed them for they were not a party to the government acts of de-gazettement. The Tinet people would have lost 24432.71 hectares to the forest excision scheme, to them a half a loaf is better than no bread at all. The excisions are, therefore, supported since at least some rights to shelter have been recognised and restored.

     The Tinet Ogiek filed Nairobi High Court Civil Case Number 238 of 1999 (Originating Summons) of Francis Kemei and 9 others vs The Attorney General and 3 others. On 23rd March, 2000, the court ruled in favour of the government in a bid to evict the Ogiek to pave way for new settlers in the pretext that the environment is being conserved for the good of the country. After this, the government issued a fourteen-day notice for the more than 5,000 members of the Ogiek community in Tinet (South Western Mau) to quit the forests, they had sought among other declarations:

     This judgement of the High Court rendered by judges Richard Kuloba and Samuel Oguk raises very important issues as regards the Ogiek as an indigenous people. The overall question, which the High Court answered in the negative, is whether the Ogiek are an indigenous people who would claim protection under Kenyan law and International Human Rights Law. This judgment raised a number of questions that depending on the answers that one supplies to each of these questions, would determine whether one can comfortable accept the decision by the High Court or reject it as jurisprudentially limiting and seek alternative ways of vindicating the rights of the Ogiek and similarly situated communities.

     The court dismissed all the prayers that were basically premised on the argument that the Ogiek were an indigenous people. This means that court accepted the explanation by the government that it was evicting the Ogiek for environmental conservation reasons. It further confirms that they upheld government claim to the Mau Forest as government land and therefore do not recognise customary law title of the Ogiek to the forest lands.

     The Ogiek argued that they depended for their livelihood on this forest for hunting and gathering, bee keeping and that their culture was closely knit with the forest. That their lifestyle has been one of conserving the forest except to build schools and churches.

     The government argued that the applicants are not genuine members of the Ogiek community since the genuine members had been settled in Sururu, Likia and Teret. That the government had intended to settled landless Kenyans around the area and later changed its mind when it was realised that the intended area of settlement was a water catchments area.

     The court argued that the Ndorobo have reasonably changed theire economic activity such that it is not dependant on the forest- they no longer hunt or gather. They have modern homes. Their history in the areas is quite recent traceable only to the 1930s. they were nomadic. They build schools and trading centres, activities that lead to environmental degradation. Their culture is also fairly modernized and therefore hunting is a secondary economic activity since they cultivate the land, they are Christian and present generations of the Ogiek are no longer held together by honey but by Christian faith. The court further argued that the fact that the applicant did not challenge the legitimacy of the Forest Act meant that they recognised government title to the lands. They should no, therefore, seek the protection of the law when they are in the forest illegally in contravention to law; which they arguably recognise its legitimacy since they have not challenged it. Further, the fact that the applicants accepted allotment cared from the government shows their acceptance of government title to the forest lands. How could they otherwise allow one who they claim does not have title to the land (the government) to allocate it to the?

     The applicants were not denied their livelihoods since to hunt and gather in the forest one does not need to live in the forest or even own it just like to fish in Lake Victoria one does not have to own it. When the colonial government moved the Ogiek to other land it adequately compensated them. The court further argued that the Ogiek are not comparative with the aborigines of Australia whose native title to land was recognised in the Australian Native Land Title Act since the aborigines were settled agriculturalists. Further more counsel representing the applicants did not adequately address the place of native title in our land laws.

     The argument by the court that the Ogiek cannot accept land allotment cards from the government if they believe that the government does not hold title to the land seems to forget history of land tenure in this country. The nationalists accepted land from the colonialists while fiercely opposing the legitimacy of her majesty’s title to Kenyan land. A history of a subjugated status in society has been considered a factor that would negate the argument of laches or estoppels. This was the finding of the arbitral tribunal in the Cayaga Indians case (Great Britain v United States). The reasoning by the court is conservative and is behind current thinking in the area of group rights. The international consensus is that culture evolves and does not therefore remain static. Under international rights law the question of the right to a distinct culture is provided for in article 27 of the International Convent on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

     In its interpretation of article 27 the UN Human Rights Committee makes it clear that the notion of culture cannot be frozen but is subject to technological transformation over the centuries and decades. The Human Rights Committee observes that article 27 does not only protect traditional means of livelihood but that indigenous peoples could adapt their methods over the years to technological developments and to new knowledge acquired over the years. If indigenous protection will only protect those activities that symbolize time old cultural activity-primitive agriculture, hunting the culture shall be frozen in time and will in so doing deny the group social and economic development. Legal protection cannot be premised on the fallacious notion of a static culture. If this happened the law would only succeed in facilitating the cultural extinction of the group if they decided to live only within the straits dictated by the protecting the law. The indigenous culture would therefore be delegitimized since it is not meeting the economic demands of the 21st century thereby killing it. Protection must be such as to afford the indigenous culture space to evolve and grow and also borrow from other civilizations.

     The most visible disguise under which the government has continued to evict the Ogiek has been that of resettlement. Indeed, when the Ogiek were chased out of Tinet in 1939, they were “resettled” in Chepalungu and Olenguruone which were called native settlement areas. This so called resettlement programme has continued to date. Every time, the political establishment wants to acquire land, the Ogiek resettlement programme is resurrected and the trends continue as manifested in all the land dealings that were to follow.

     In 1982, part of Tinet named Kiptagich Settlement Scheme was demarcated by the government in order to settle the Ogiek community. However, this effort came a cropper when those who benefited included only government officials such as the then District Commissioner, Benjamin Ogol B. (60 acres), Councillor Lasoi (50 acres) the then Provincial Commissioner, Hezekiel Oyugi (100 acres) and the former head of intelligence Mr. Kanyotu together with some people from Bureti in Kericho district.

     In 1986, part of Tinet was carved out yet again. It was demarcated and named Sinendet with the intention of settling the Ogiek community. This area, formerly called Sotik, eventually did not serve this purpose. Those who were identified to benefit from this land were non-Ogiek majority, again, from Bureti. Moreover, the beneficiaries included senior government functionaries such as the then Deputy Provincial Commissioner, Rift Valley province, Zakayo Cheruiyot (100 acres), Councillor Leitich (40 acres) and the District Surveyor, Langat (20 acres). The government refused to entertain the complaints that the Ogiek raised due to this dispossession.

     In 1988-89, people from Transmara, Chepalungu and Bomet invaded the forest and built shelters. The government said that their settlement there was temporally as it was necessitated by drought and famine and, hence, they would vacate as soon as conditions improved. Later, when the government sent its investigators to find out who in the area needed resettlement, these were the only people whose plight was considered and not that of the Ogiek who were in the forest stations. Subsequently, these investigators went to the forest stations and recorded the names of a few among the Ogiek community for resettlement. Their investigation resulted in the release of the Green Book with registered names of those who needed the resettlement. Only about 200 out of over 3,500 belonged to the Ogiek people. On complaint, a review of the names was done and a White Book was produced. Out of a total of 5,016 people, only about 1600 names belonged to the Ogiek. This was as a result of compromise by the Ogiek self-seekers and the provincial administration who were the principle agents of the state machinery.

     Resettlement was done in Mauche Settlement Scheme and the government stated that it would be using the Green Book and not the White Book to settle people. Non- Ogiek were the first to be settled as they were in plots number 1 to 4,000 and the Ogiek were waiting to be settled in numbers 4001 to 6000. However, when the allocation reached numbers 4000, the operation was temporary suspended only for it to proceed from numbers 7,000 to 10,000. In total, only about 20 Ogiek were finally settled and the rest were told to await further resettlement.

     Representatives of the Ogiek complained directly to the president about this in 1995. The president instructed public officials to record all the names of the Ogiek so that they could be resettled. This was done but the list disappeared mysteriously. However, there were other such lists and these were used to develop a Blue Book consisting of 5,016 people. The Blue Book was presented to the president who promised to initiate a resettlement programme. While the land set aside for this was being demarcated those carrying out the exercise at a place called Laangam met some illegal settlers who chased them away.

     These strangers had been there since 1988. Later, a government representative discovered that there were over 9,000 strangers who had illegally invaded the forest. Another group of over 7,000 had settled in a place called Siratet, also in Tinet forest. The invaders were all ordered to vacate the forest, whereupon they began burning the Ogiek houses and also chasing them away. They raped women, slaughtered cows and stole Ogiek’s properties.

     Former senior government officials among them former powerful permanent secretary in charge of provincial administration and internal security, Mr. Zakayo Cheruiyot, Councillor Wilson Leitich, Kuresoi former Member of Parliament, James Koskei and others forcefully took parts of the plots belonging to the Ogiek to settle their own, namely, Korau (381 plots), Kipsirat (54 plots), Kiplmeywo (over 400 plots), Plantations (100 plots) and Tach Asis (60 plots).

     The Ogiek complained about the invaders to a district officer who, on visiting the area, was violently sent away. He reported this to the District Commissioner who in turn transferred the DO. There was a meeting in July 1998 that brought together all the Ogiek and the outsiders to discuss the disconcerting situation in the area. Later on, there was another meeting where it was agreed that only 384 outsiders be settled in the area. However, the outsiders subsequently refused to abide with this decision, as they wanted over 9,000 resettled. In January 1999, the District Commissioner ordered all illegal settlers out of the forest, which was temporarily adhered to before the illegal settlers returned. However, whatever hope the Ogiek had that they would be allowed to permanently settle in their ancestral lands came to naught in the month of May.

     This was when the Nakuru District commissioner Mr. John Litunda went to Tinet and at Kapongoi Primary School issued a 14 day quit notice. He further disbanded the settlement committee accusing it of corruption and abusing the settlement process. Their major crime was the refusal to accept the settlement of outsiders and further exposing members of Kipsigis community who had invaded their ancestral lands in deeper parts of Ndoinet forest.

     The Ogiek went to court to challenge the eviction order and also to enforce their right to life. The case was lodged at Nakuru, but was later transferred to Nairobi to be conducted by a two judge bench. The case was heard before judges Samuel Odhiambo Oguk and Richard Kuloba. The government decisions were upheld by the judges for reasons best known to the courts. Prayers sought were dismissed. They hastened to add, “in the context of this case we know no safe way for this country and for these litigants, than dismissing this case with cost to the respondent, legal trickery to fill the balance in favour of the aggressor.

     The Ogiek have since appealed, but the scheming behind the scene has stalled the finalising of the appeal. Even with the change in regime, the scheming has never stopped, why stop the it when the business is not over? This invites total scrutiny of the political and legal disputes revolving around Tinet forest which is part of the Mau forest block. The case is between the minority Ogiek and majority called others.


     The facts of the case were as follows: about 5,000 members of the Ogiek community applied in the high court for among others two declarations namely; that their eviction from Tinet forest by the government contravenes their rights to the protection of the law, not to be discriminated against, and to reside in any part of Kenya; and secondly, that their right to life had been contravened by the forceful eviction from the Tinet forest. The community also sought compensation from the government.

     In the judgement of the Ogiek case, the government opposed the application among others on the ground that Tinet forest is a water catchment area. The learned judge captured the case of the state as follows: “Concerning the position taken by the applicants that they are completely landless, the respondents say that is not the true position and that archival administrative records availed from our National Archives show the contrary and that the colonial government resettled them elsewhere along with other Wadorobo people. But after the said resettlement elsewhere, some people entered the forest of Tinet, with an intention to dwell there without any license given by the forest authority on behalf of the government. The unauthorised occupation of the forest has been followed by numerous evictions since the date of the gazettement of the forest as such. Speaking during the hearing of HCCA 238/99 of Francis Kemei and Others versus Hon. Attorney General and 3 others, Judge Richard Kuloba and Samuel Oguk said, "The government’s 1991-1998 plan to settle all the landless persons (including some Ogiek people) was purely on humanitarian considerations, but the programme did not materialise when it was later found that to go ahead with it would necessarily result in environmental degradation which would adversely affect the role of the forest reserve and a water catchment area, with dire consequences for rivers springing from there which, presumably sustain human life, the fauna and the flora there and down-stream and their environs. So the plan was shelved, at least for the time being". The proposed time being expired on 16 February, 2001, when finally the authority agreed to part with a total area of 24,432.7 hectares under the continuous excision of the more than 67,000 hectares.

     After a careful analysis of the facts and the law, the learned judges dismissed the applicants’ case. With apparent reboding, the judge hastened to add that, “the eviction bid for the purpose of saving the whole Kenya from a possible environmental disaster, it is being carried out for the common good within the statutory powers …. In the context of this case, we know no safe way for this country and for these litigants, than dismissing this case with costs on the respondents”.

     For good measure, Justice Oguk and Richard Kuloba who delivered the landmark ruling added:

     There is a failure to realise that the unsustainable utilisation of our natural resources undermines our very human existence. In grappling with our socio-economic cultural problems and the complex relationship between the environment and good governance, we must not ignore the linkages between landlessness, land tenure, cultural practices and habits.

     Land titles, land use and natural resources management, which must be at the heart of policy options in environmental, constitutional law and human rights litigations such as this one … Indeed, a legal system which provides extensive and simplified procedures for converting public land to private ownership, or which gives a reckless access to public natural resources, with little or no regard for ecological and sustainable social developmental impacts, is a national enemy of the people. We must all be ecological ignorance free; and a justice system, which does not uphold efforts to protect the environmental sustainable development, is a danger to the enjoyment of human rights.


     The government imported people from Nandi, Kericho, Keiyo, Bomet, Transmara, Baringo, Koibatek and Eldoret. The reason behind was to increase the voting strength of the ruling party. The fruits of this were the creation of two divisions namely; Keringet and Kuresoi Division in this area.

     In 1981, the then D.C Benjamin Ogol held a huge public baraza at Saino Forest Station where he informed the outsiders that the land was meant for the Ogiek only and warned the outsiders to vacate immediately. The outsiders were evicted and Ogiek’s grouped in villages to await proper settlement. But because of political grounds the outsiders once again joined the Ogieks, in villages. These outsiders were once again given first priority to be settled. In 1993 few Ogiek were used as key to settle outsiders at Sirikwa A.D.C farms. These outsiders are from Nandi, Bomet and Marakwet districts. The Ogieks name was used as a bridge to cross the outsiders, for all these settlements Ogiek were still left in villages awaiting their promise but all in vain.

     In 1995 people from Teret (Mauche) were brought to Ndoinet (around Chepkobwot village) where the Ogiek were assembled and about 1300 people were settled immediately on the promised land of the Ogiek. Further settlement was done in 9/5/1996 to these outsiders along with very few Ogiek. The allocation was done by the then D.C. Mr. Aden Noor. Those allocated included prominent people. The Ogieks were allocated deep into the forest which was declared the cut-line area. When the declaration was made in 1997, the Ogiek found themselves once again landless. Once again the Ogiek were cheated. So in our present government we appeal for the total eviction of all these people (outsiders) to give room to the real Ogiot to occupy their ancestral land.


     In Londiani forests there are pockets of Ogiek People. Some have been totally assimilated while others are still struggling to regain their identity. The former member of Parliament, Hon. Dr. Bishop D.K. Arap Tanui, made several unsuccessful appeals. One such appeal is contained in a letter to the then Rift Valley Provincial Forest Officer, where the Dorobo (Ogiek) plight was the central focus. The letter is dated 08.05.1997, Ref:DKT/Cons/97. At the time of writing this letter Bishop Tanui was an Assistant Minister in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

     The other acknowledgement of this group appeals is from the then Londiani District Officer H.K.RONO. In a letter dated 3 October, 1999 Ref: LON/LOD.16/1 Vol.IV(185), headed BRIEF ON UNSETTLED DOROBOS, The DO acknowledges historical claims, which date back to the colonial era. It goes on to give the reasons of eviction of these groups. The eviction is said to date way back to 1978, where the eviction was justified to create room for reforestation of the Mau Hills. Government records classified them as squatters.

     According to the officer, there are only four groups claiming forests occupation rights these are: Masaita, Sorget, Malagat and Tendeno. Their request was directed to Mololo Sorget settlement. They appealed to the then President of the Republic of Kenya H.E Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi who issued instructions to successive district commissioners, Kericho District, who were Timothy Sirma, Nicholas Kipchumba Mberia, Joseph Mangira, Athman Shauri and others. To them the target was Moi Sorget Secondary School and Primary Schools which were closed way back 1988.

     There are about 150 people of Ogiek descent in the Tinderet forests (Warego forest blocks) whose problems are similar to those of other Ogiek. Their evictions date back to 1992. In the month of April, 2000, the then Kericho DC wrote a confidential letter to the PC, Rift Valley Province, Ref:G.43/Vol.1/88 in reply to the allegations that there was a presidential directive that the squatters be settled. The genesis of the so called presidential directive, was a letter to by John K Koech, Samuel K. Sigei and Francis K. Martim to the PC, through all the juniors offices. This letter was a follow up of an open letter “To Whom It May Concern” by the Locational Chief Mr. James K. Koskei. John Rotich (Provincial Forester) allocated himself 17 acres of the forest land and built a saw mill at Sorget Forest Station. Minister Kipng’eno Arap Ngeny brought his people from Soin location, Belgut division of Ainamoi constituency and renamed the scheme, Soina Settlement Scheme, hence driving away the Ogiek. Most of the schemes around this area were taken by the mighty the powerful in the former regime. These schemes are partly stalled, due to inside fightings.


     Koibatek district was recently created after being curved out of Baringo and parts of Nakuru districts. The forest areas bordering Nakuru district were transferred to this new district for strict conservation and for extracting of their natural resources by the local people. The scramble for the resources has only been left open in the areas occupied by the Ogiek in East and West Mau forests.

     In 1995, a local saw mill owned by Raiply and its sister, Timsales, was closed down on political grounds. Since then its facilities have been moved to Elburgon town near East Mau forest. This was to pave way for quick clearing of the intended lands in East Mau for settlement. Eight years later, thousands of acres of forest plantations have been cleared and ten thousand people settled. What a clever move! The West Mau forests were being preserved as total or partial clearing would lead to increased frost which would affect the tea farming and flower industry, in the sistrivts of Nakuru, Kerivho and Bomet.

     This is an area mostly dominated by Kipchorngwonig clan which has its family roots in Tinet forest ((South West Mau Region). The population in this region is approximately 300 people comprising of 13 families. Their re-settlement question is still pending. They consider themselves as squatters in government forest. They live in village centres or neighbouring farms where they depend on forest for their survival. They are found in the Mosop (Tinet Timboroa) Esageri (Visoi Ogiek)E/Ravine (Maji Mazuri Ogiek)divisions of Koibatek district.

     Major families in this group are Matingo, Tango, Ndigis, Boisima, and Lees respectively. Their grandfathers are said to have lived there since time immemorial and to date their children are yet to taste the fruits of independence and their birthright. They have lived in the forest until they were evicted on 15th April 1987. Following this eviction they moved to neighbouring farms like Ngesumuna, Nakuru, Tarkwei, Mawe, and Kimage while others went back to the forest. In all these farms they work as casual labourers earning very low salaries and live in abject poverty. They can not afford to take their children to school and meet family needs. The other side of the story is that the community’s suffering was as a result of improper settlement which caused children to suffer for lack of access to formal (quality) education.

     During the colonial era, they had a leader by the name Esageri. This is what gave them the name Esageri Ogiek. During this exodus, their acting chief was Mr. Motingo. Koibatek is a name given by their neighbours. Its correct spelling is “Koi-po-tek” whose translation is “this house of bamboo,” this is because they made dome shaped houses using bamboo reeds or stems for camouflage during the night and during raids by close knit societies and groups.

     History has it that the Ogiek dynasties were dispossessed from the mountainous regions. Ironically, it is here at Rongai that the first forest station was established by colonialists. Today, out of the 45 forest stations across the country, 15 or one third are in Nakuru district.

     Archival records show that the colonial authorities made the following recommendations on behalf of Ravine Ogiek:

     The concession was confirmed as from 1 January 1912. However, 48 years after the concession is over, they are yet to get their native reserve. Any move to ask for their rights invites the wrath of the millennium from what has come to be known as their host. The provincial administration too are not left behind, the only difference with interested party, is that they address the issue from a district security and development forum point of view.

     Dr. Misoi the former MP for Eldoret South has severally raised their land matter with the Uasin Gishu District Commissioner but with little success. The Ogiek land question is said to have been raised in 1970s in parliament but the response was always hostile.

     A memorandum by this writer addressed to the Provincial Commissioner Rift Valley Province on the Koibatek community’s plight received a response and by November 2001 the families were still being promised resettlement. This promise sent them in deep sleep. Today, they have no future plans as long as their peace is maintained. The quest for their land rights is almost a foregone conclusion.


     Laikipia is one of the administrative districts within the expansive Rift Valley province. It is the home district to several pastoralists and agriculturists, with scores of white settlers. The district is rich in wildlife and has been a very important tourist destination for the country. Nanyuki town, its headquarters, is the gateway to the Northern frontier. Given the background, it is clear that a people with insignificant background such as the Ogiek have very little or no influence as they are not counted as part of the district natives. It is thus not surprising to hear that for the last 50 years, the Laikipia Ogiek have been battling against discrimination by the locals. Presently, most of them are found in Oljogi areas where they live in harmony with the Laikipia Maasai. Historical legend has it that the Ogiek dispersed from a place called Masaapa. This was when they were evicted from Mt. Kenya and Aberdares by the farming communities. At Laikipia, it is said they were violently dispersed by the pastoralists after the death of their only leader “Paruswom”.

     As survival for the fittest became the option, the Ogiek dispersed to various directions, thus leading to their current respective areas of occupation. However, a few people remained behind and are currently called Oljogi and in another term marti – a Masaai term meaning a swarm. In Samburu area they are locally known as Ilng’wesi’.

     Some were at the Thomson Falls area. Their lands were later taken by the white settlers, who not only sought to criminalize Ogiek affairs, but also evicted the few who remained. Archival records show that they were herded to Samburu tribal reserve. This is in line with what was done in 1930s by the colonial authorities, to one of our members in Naivasha by An assistant superintendent of police, Naivasha on 16 March, 1931 (See Archival records of the colonial authorities RE: A77/14/31). We quote from a letter addressed to the attention of Provincial Commissioner, Rift Valley Province, Nakuru, “I have the honour to inform you that the Dorobo (Ogiot) is a trespasser on Captain Hughes farm was fined Kshs. 30.00 by District Commissioner, Rumuruti.” This amount of money by that time was not easy to get and thus ensured a jail term without appeal. This was meant to send a clear signal to the rest that they either toe the line or face the music.

     The farms he is said to have trespassed are Dorobo farm No. 2911 Thomson (22/2/1931) and farm No. 2913 Captain Hughes 13/2/1931). The Ogiek who were thus residing in Laikipia were traumatised and lost their self-worth. Today, they have been reduced to landless and identity beggars. Their fate seems to have been sealed. Those who still strongly identify themselves with the Ogiek have since moved to Eburu forest where they are leading a quiet life. The conservation authorities do not want them either in this Eburu forest. Their calling Eburu their only home and identity, is seen by distracters as a joke carried too far. They have organised themselves though they are only three families, Chuma Mebarne is their leader.

Mount Elgon

     Mount Elgon is in Western province in the Kenya-Uganda border. The surrounding communities are the Saboat, the Pokots, the Sabei, the Gishu and the Luhya. The Ogiek are the original occupants of this mountain. However, successive governments and their provincial administrators have refused to recognise this fact. For many years, the land has been alienated to benefit the neighbouring communities, while the plight of the Ogiek has been ignored. The community has made various attempts to address this issue but in vain. Instead, the government has gone further to encourage cattle rustling and other criminal activities. Marginalisation and disinheritance, forms part of the government policies and programmes, as it seeks to please the dominant communities.

     The Chepkitale community is a small ethnic group that has resided on the slopes of Mt. Elgon for many centuries. They are part of the Ogiek community, but since the colonial era, there has been total confusion concerning their identity. They have received mistaken identities either intentionally or otherwise from the administration of the day and from other neighbouring communities. They have been considered as the El Gonyi (Konyi), Elgon Maasai, Kalenjin minority group of the Saboat as well as the Ndorobos of Mt. Elgon (Chepkitale).

     The confusion about the identity of Chepkitale community has created a lot of problems as regards land and, political rights, cultural interference as well as socio-economic issues. The land problems experienced by the Chepkitale community started when colonial settlers took land in Kenya. This was highlighted through evidences and complaints in the Carter Land Commission of 1932 and other subsequent commissions and ordinances. During the colonial period, the Chepkitale were pushed to a Native Reserve (Trust land) of about 80, 000 acres on the top of Mt. Elgon. They were denied access to the lower part of the mountain that had a thick forest and was more hospitable. After independence, this community was not considered among other Kenyans in settlement programmes within the former white settlers’ farms.

     In the 1970s, the government proposed to settle them in Chepyuk, which forms part of the Mt. Elgon Rain Forest. The settlement exercise brought in a lot of problems for this community as they were forced from their native reserves in the pretext of settling the Ogiek (Ndorobo). However, the Ogiek have not been settled in the proposed land up to date due to interference from the land grabbers and “politically correct” members of the neighbouring communities. They have been subjected to all manner of humiliations and mistreatment and ended up being landless and unable to lead a decent life like other Kenyans. Recently, the Government robbed them of their Trust Land by turning the Chepkitale Native Reserve into a National Game Reserve. This was done on 6 June 2000 as per the recommendation of the Mt Elgon County Council to the Minister of State in the Office of the President.

     They number about 2000 with leaders in both the local administration and civic authorities. They have appeared and sent memorandum to government bodies and commissions with the highest attempt being to see the president. Dr. Johnson Maasai Changeiywo is a son of this group. He is the current chairman of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in Egerton University. When he saw that the land struggle was far from being won, he took the initiative of encouraging the youth from his community to take education seriously. Fred Matei, has for the last three years has been translating the bible into the Ogiek language.

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Copyright © 2004, Ogiek Welfare Council and Towett J. Kimaiyo.
Reproduced with permission of Towett Kimaiyo.
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