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In this time of environmental and cultural terrorism, the Ogiek feel humanity must work together not just for survival but also for quality of life based on universal values, that protect the delicate inter-relatedness of life that protects us all. Biodiversity is the term for this intricate interweaving of life that sustains us. Yes own the resources but remember that we are related to this life The Ogiek share the following views on the settlement schemes initiative:
Members of the Ogiek community have seriously suffered in the ever changing political landscapes of our nation. They have been sacrificed for political selfish gains and are still made Trojan horses for a race they have never applied for. Without their consent they have been made proposals and successfully marketed. Today in the outside world, it is difficult to understand the Ogiek demands for there are different groups speaking for and on their behalf.
In accordance with the Ogiek understanding of multi-party and also the insiders views, multi-parties started in 1985 and was only made official through the repeal of section 2A in 1991. We would like to explore a few activities that justified the existence of multi-parties as from 1985 to date.
By 1985, I was already a grown-up youth and in the same year I was initiated into adulthood. With this initiation I thus got a privilege to be with the Morans (Maasai Morans) in some parts of Narok where the members of Ogiek live among the Maasai. Here I got to hear that there are certain members of certain tribes who were disaffected with the existing regime. The same members had benefited a lot by grabbing land from other tribes, particularly the Maasai and thus, if the Maasai wanted to reclaim their sovereignty, then they had to evict this group from their land and possibly drive them to their areas of nativity. In the same areas, it was rumoured and later it came to pass, that the same group were training in the forests using arms with a view of overthrowing the government. It was also taken that this group was not grateful that they had been hosted and that explains the reasons as to why they wanted to totally subdue the area natives. We the Morans, felt that we had a duty to reclaim ancestral lands as well as nip these dishonest groups in the bud.
But this was not possible as it could have drawn them to the state owned forests where they were already settled in large numbers. So, the rumours continued that the same group had guns hidden in the forests, in tree trunks and in the beehives. The beehives were targeted for destruction.
The rumour continued and it got roots and flourished. By then I was still a student at a local primary school and a candidate for that year (1986) Kenya Certificate of Primary Examination. Although I spent most of the time in school, I still had an opportunity to be with my neighbours and thus get wind of the rumours.
To counter this emerging force, it was suggested that a number of modalities be put in place. One of these strategies was that all the land be surveyed and allocated. It was said that the indigenous forest bordering these communities be allocated reclaiming the lost land as well as putting a buffer zone to areas between these communities and the forest. The most important part, being to monitor the arming activities. This part of the activity continued in both Narok South and North constituencies. I believe that the same was carried out in several other parts of the country.
The first part of the exercise of settlement scheme saw the introduction of the change in the Forest Policy by the government in 1987. This was meant to evict all communities who were residing in the forests and relocate them to urban areas and other rural areas.
There was also the introduction of the Nyayo Tea Zones that were set to achieve the same aim. This led to the eviction of all the members of non- Kalenjin tribes in 1987 from East Mau, West Mau and other forests across the country and the attempted relocation of the members of the Ogiek Community to Ndoinet area in West Mau in 1989.
To protect their existence, the Ogiek did participate in successive commissions, task forces and select committees. The famous one is the Saitoti Kanu Review Commission. They also wrote letters and correspondences to the provincial administration. One such letter was answered by the Rift Valley Provincial Commissioner, Mr. Yusuf Haji on 19 January 1991, Ref SR.CORR. 3/1/1 Vol.XI/154. Around this time, ethnic clashes rocked several parts of the country, with the hardest hit areas being those that bordered the targeted forests and Agricultural Development Corporation lands. The effects of the clashes included cattle rustling by the Kalenjin, but this was blamed on the Ogiek. They were also blamed for the clashes and the idea was to isolate the Ogiek from other communities with the aim of making them to accept the Kalenjin community, who were then eyeing their land. This was partially successful, since not before long, the Kalenjin started arriving in the Ogiek ancestral land. Ever since justification has been made that the Ogiek are part of the Kalenjin company, despite the fact that the Ogiek have got no shares in the Kalenjin, culture.
The East Mau forest is said to be leading in Kenya in timber production from the harvest of both exotic and indigenous trees. There were approximately 150 saw mills situated adjacent to the forest in addition to about 200 illegal tractors mounted with saw-benches all over the forest. The forest was declared Crown Land in 1930, and made a nature reserve in the 1940s, it was officially gazetted in 1954 as a forest reserve under the Forest Act, Chapter 385. On retirement, the Forest Department employees were taken back to their original areas of abode. It has been argued that the original intention of the colonial government for declaring East Mau forest gazetted was to create a buffer zone between the Nature Reserves (Maasai who had cattle) and their areas of residence; the white highland. This would stop Maasai cattle from getting into contact with settler cows, for they would spread diseases.
By the end of 1994, the Ogiek had witnessed the arrival of the Kalenjin sub-tribe in their ancestral land. Surveyors from both the government and the private sector from the same ethnic background were deployed in strategic areas in East Mau Forest in readiness for the settlement exercise. In early 1995, survey work started in Sururu, Likia and Nessuit respectively. This was the beginning of the scramble for Ogiek ancestral land. Forest laws and policies were set aside, land adjudication process was shunned while Ogiek customary land rights were disregarded. The question of who is smarter in grabbing was the issue, political supremacy notwithstanding.
Between 1998 and 1999, there were warriors or militia present in most of this forest. The groups were in thirties to several hundreds. They were trained and fed on relief food. Their presence worried the Ogiek who felt the hidden agenda was purely aimed at their lives and economies. It is believed that the group is very much alive. The group of militia is said to be from Transmara and Baringo districts.
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