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Ogiek Land Cases
and
Historical Injustices


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Chapter 10: The Aftermath


The Settlement

     The settlement schemes within the Mau forest complex commonly referred to as “Mauche Settlement Scheme” was politically initiated with the aim of achieving political and economic interests and security. By 1991, plans were at advanced stages, but the tribal clashes curtailed the plan, as beneficiaries needed a peaceful atmosphere to settle. The first step was to invite enough saw millers to clear the trees followed by burning of both exotic and indigenous trees. There was a wild fire that destroyed a sizeable portion of forestland in Sururu and Ndoswa areas of East Mau.

     Around the same time, a big plot was hatched, that all the Ogiek who were leading the crusade against the scheme implementation be eliminated. The first to go was Mrs Linah Tapsaloi Njala, who survived a hand made bomb at Ogilgei on November 1993. She suffered intestinal injuries and to date she has became weak, improverished and withdrawn from public life. The scheming by the dangerous eliminators, didn’t end there, success came when Micheal Rotich Cheres was successfully eliminated and culprits went scote free. Although he was not a strong handliner, but the threat was always felt, this was on 5th July 1994. About a year later he was followed by Amos Naisoru Sang, who was made to contract a mysterious disease, inflicted through a sharp object at the street of Ogilgei in Nakuru. This was in the month of August, 1995 after the unsuccessful demonstration of July 23rd, 1995, in which he was to lead. His major sin was the book he was working on, through the assistance of Egerton Master of Arts Degree student Mr. Sitati Wangero, with him was a detailed memorandum which he intended to present to the Head of State, if the match to Kabarak became a success.

     The next victims were a vocal political activist Mr Justus Kuresoi Njala, who has ever since been a customer to political and economic thugs. Together with this writer they were being the main targets of November 27th 30th, 1995. It was by God’s grace and the Mariashoni patriots who on November 29th, 1995, boycotted a District Commissioner gathering, in the protest of their sons being targeted in abide to implement the five acres scheme, then D.C Mr. Noor Adan Noor, will recall this great day of awe and show.

     Although the issue of selling forest trees was subject to licensing from the authorities and people were allowed only to sell a certain number of trees, the “politically correct” were clearing all their farms. There were also the mounted sawmills which were traversing Mau forest between 1996 and 2002. The sawmills were even allowed in the forest plantations that were not demarcated by the “correct persons.” The tree harvesting extended to the indigenous forests, totally damaging the fragile terrain.

     The foresters benefited from this looting, while the forest guards acted as tax collectors for their masters. business boomed and for the first time in the Ogiek history, commercial sex was witnessed. Sexually transmitted diseases flourished and divorce and broken marriages became the norm. This is because the poor Ogiek men had nothing to offer to their spouses. The love of money made young ladies opt to be married to newcomers. There was mushrooming of business centres with uncoordinated buildings as business amateurs ventured into the trade. The provincial administration supported the move as this would lead to the success of the settlement scheme. They even supported the temporary marriages which almost led to the total collapse of the community’s traditions and norms.

     Court orders were ignored and the Provincial Forest Officer, Mr. John Rotich, visited Bararget area and started recruiting private askaris cum-army and surveyors to help in the sub-division of this area. In 1999, the Ogiek lawyer pressed hard for the case to be heard but this was not to be. The dates of 11th and 12th May 1999 were fixed. To prepare the Ogiek community for this case and to expose what was going on in East Mau, the Ogiek hired a freelance journalist, Mr. William Munuhe Gichuki--who has since been eliminated, to write facts of what was happening on the ground. He did write a feature that appeared in the People Daily of 9 April 1999. On 16 April 1999, a third crackdown was carried out and this time Mr. Kimaiyo Towett and Jackson Kumari were the casualties. They were arrested and charged with incitement, disturbance and obstruction of government officials from their lawful duties of land allocation. The charges were later dismissed due to lack of evidence, an official position adapted by the state.


Threats

     The influx of persons seeking land for settlement. grazing and logging is a political move aimed at ensuring political control and dominance, by the elements of the old order.

The whole settlement scheme programme is said to spark more questions than answers. The many questions are:

  1. Why was the former President Daniel arap Moi directly and indirectly involved?
  2. Why was the provincial administration and State House operators privy to the on goings?
  3. Why would a mere group of village elders be made so powerful as to report directly to the former president?
  4. And why would the same elders decide who was to become a district head in the district of interest?
  5. Why would the Office of the President choose this forest, of all the forests to initiate a settlement scheme?
  6. When parliament requested for the list of the beneficiaries, the government could not make it available, leave alone the maps of the proposed boundaries.
  7. Why would the government be reluctant to file replying affidavits if and when sued?


Attempts

     Mrs. Ruth Chepngeno Cheres was a strong secretary of Ogiek elder from 1985-1991. she was instrumental in lobbying the authorities to respect and affirm the Ogiek rights. She made remarkable achievements. The Ogiek voice was put in the political track, thus earning them their rightful place and position.

     The Ogiek evictions came to an end. The grazing permits were withdrawn and a number of Ogiek children secured employment in the civil service, others were employed as teachers and others as forest guards and others as subordinate staffs in the forestry department.

     She led the Ogiek to secure their attendance to tradition cultural festivals at the Bomas of Kenya in 1987, where the Ogiek were awarded a gold medal in medicinal herbs and runners up in traditional houses construction. She further led the Ogiek in participation at State House festivals where they left the honey barrels at state house precincts in 1998 in 1989. She successfully opposed the relocation of the Ogiek to Ndoinet Settlement Scheme where they were to be settled alongside other communities. This was during the reign of powerful Nakuru District Commissioner, Mr. John Anguka. She led the Ogiek elders to petition the Saitoti Kanu Review Commission on the Ogiek plight and further appealed to the authorities in her letters of 1990 and in 1991 got a favourable response allowing and affirming the Ogiek rights and existence in Mau forest. This attempt gave the Ogiek the much needed hope to rebuild and reorganise themselves. Our very achievements have roots in these acts and heroic deeds.

     It is alleged that they once met Mr. John Keen who forwarded their plight to the then President, Moi. The government response was contained in a letter which was confiscated without reaching the Ogiek by the Forest Department messengers who then availed the letter to a leading Ogiek critic, Mr. Wilson Leitich. This very same letter was to cost her life. She had only seven months to leave, but she left behind an enduring legacy to be emulated by patriots.

     Mrs. Ruth Chempngeno Cheres contracted a mysterious disease and died in July 1991. Her death was celebrated by those who were eyeing Ogiek lands and who also wanted to speak on their behalf. This message of self-sacrifice was to inform the Ogiek struggles throughout the successive generations. This writer is such a product.

     Other notable elders in this struggle from East Mau were Kapteri Mutarakwa, Ingopiriot Tigani, Belati Sorogony, Thomas Ngayami Saiyalel, Amos Nairuru, John Willa Mureno, Justus Kuresoy, Johnson Nemunge, Linah Tapsaloi, Parsaloi Saitoti and Daniel Kibet Chesot. In West Mau we heard of Kugo Korenket, Busienei Kitango, and Lependo, from Sururu area of East Mau.

     Although most of these elders were not educated enough to challenge the dishonest elites who were administrators, at least they had faith and unity and a very strong vision. They were committed to securing an exclusive territory for their community, in which they had a strong faith. The elites on the other hand created a factional group, which betrayed the Ogiek efforts.

     Mauche Settlment Scheme was to accommodate political interests. These interests range from security, economic, political and cultural. It was to be a white wash to the many years of their efforts. The scheme was to start with the opening up of the earlier on closed schools in areas inhabited by the Ogiek. Then followed the civic authorities elections of councillor John Sitienei and nomination of councillor Hezron Kipletich Tiemosi in December 1992. They were joined later by nominated councillor Charles Cheruiyot Rono in 1997.

     The locations gazetting took place on 11 March 1993, with the interviews taking place on 12 July 1993 and the full appointment of chiefs on 11 November, 1993. This was in Bararget, Nessuit, Mariashoni and Tinet locations with each given on a sub location with an assistant chief.

     The ground had been laid for the demarcation and allocation. On 5 January 2003, cattle rustlers stole Ogiek livestock and when the Ogiek followed, the authorities had to intervene. Mr. William Kirario, District Commissioner, Nakuru, came to Mariashoni where he addressed a rowdy gathering. He told them to mind of their future by protecting their land issues and shun activities that were likely to disrupted peace. He said that the government would compensate the Ogiek who lost their livestock in which he said totalled to seventeen.

     He told the Ogiek gathering that the government was on the process of initiating a settlement scheme for them and asked them to pick a few trusted elders who were to meet the Provincial Commissioner Mr. I.K. Chelanga on 17 January 1994, and work out modalities on how best to conduct the exercise. The day came and more than seventeen Ogiek appeared before the Provincial Commissioner who told them frankly that the government would initiate a scheme as part of addressing the Ogiek plight. He told them to go home and get organised. This was to be the genesis of the Ogiek problems, and today’s struggle.

     Mr. Chelanga, in the company of other government officials came to Nessuit Primary School on 23 March 94. He was dressed in blue jeans, with sports shoes in a Sunday. After the Ogiek performance of traditional dance and a few well coordinated speeches by the already confused Ogiek elders, the local leaders and chief, Mr. Chelanga was finally welcomed by Mr. William Kerario to a standing ovation standard welcome by the jubilant gatherings. He took to the dais and with discretion; he delivered the long awaited message. “The all important land question”.

     Mr. Chelanga began his speech after inquiring whether the Ogiek were alone, so as to facilitate the much needed secrecy. His speech contained the following message; “I have been sent by the higher authorities to come and officially give you with open hands your ancestral lands. The government loves you so much that it has arrived at this decision. I thus request you to organise yourselves in your respective clans and subdivide the said land secretly, leaving only the indigenous forest. When this exercise is complete, then the Head of State will come and hand over the land to you officially. However, I shall warn you that in case of leakage, powerful forces will came and take away your lands and trees and it will be the worst problem to be experience in the history of the Ogiek”. He concluded, to ululation by the much attentive gathering. Everybody was happy, for at long last their prayer had been answered. The meeting ended up with a word of prayer followed by a well prepared traditional meal and blessed by the Ogiek. Mr. Chelanga was given a traditional club and a walking stick and twenty litres of honey. A sheep to supplement the good gesture was soon delivered traditionally after the meal.

     After the historic gathering, the Ogiek went home a happy people for they had been assured of their ancestral lands. To them, Chelanga was a hero.

     It was not long before they started compiling their names in a register in readiness for resettlement. Each clan moved to its own parcel of land where it was parcelled to each individual and the parcelling was to await the arrival of surveyors and the approval of the allocations to follow. While behind the scenes a conspiracy was being hatched, to disinherit the community off their ancestral lands. After all who are they to benefit from a resource set aside for all Kenyans a gesture not extended to all Kenyans? This is best captured in the words of Richard Kuloba and Odhiambo Oguk in HCCA 238/99 judgement. “There is no reason why the Ogiek should be the only favoured community to own and exploit at source the sources of our natural resources, a privilege not enjoyed or extended to other Kenyans.”

     No sooner had the authorities got the register that they conspired to defraud the Ogiek off their ancestral lands. They did prepare allotment letters headed "Allocations of land at Mauche settlement scheme". The letter was not copied to the Commissioner of Lands and has never been clear whether he is aware of the scheme. The fate of documents of the title is also not clear. The name of the allottee is also anonymous.

     This was a clear indication that things were not okay. The Ogiek started distancing themselves from the proposed plans but it was too late as the other side were ready for any eventualities. This was in October 1994. At Nakuru, the land sharks were busy preparing their registers and likewise it was being done in selected villages in Baringo, Kericho, Bomet and Transmara.

     It was not long before the real events unfolded. The first surveyors were taken to Sururu area where the demarcation targeted the indigenous and exotic forests. Relief foods also followed in accordance to loyalty and willingness. Land hungry people flooded this area, they in turn provided the much needed labour and comforts.

     Mr. Thomas Saiyalel Ngayami was persuaded to accept 411 people only whom the government recognised as having deserving cases. He was also made to believe that the land allocations were being done in his interest. He was told that the list of the genuine members of the Ogiek he helped compiled would be given priority. As the survey was getting into full gear, the work got started at Nessuit centre, where the five acres were being allocated. The Ogiek were opposed to this arrangement, for they feared the five acre system would open flood gates for the land speculators. They were more opposed because the surveyors and officials handling the subdivision exercise, were foreign. They argued that the land was big enough to accommodate each person to get not less than eighty acres and could not understand how the five acre decision was arrived at.

     When the demand was not heeded they immediately knew that something was amiss. They refused to participate in the exercise and further demanded that the surveyors go back to Nakuru and the allotees to their respective areas of nativity. When the government intervened, the Ogiek demand to know why the surveyors were hostile to the Ogiek land parcelling process and further why the surveyors were interested in the five acre system. The District Commissioner during this time was Mr. Aden Noor Aden, who was frank in his dealings. He told the Ogiek elders that they were right in their demands and gave an example of their ancestral land in East and North Eastern provinces, where the land was owned communally and no subdivisions has been done except the recognition of each clan’s parcel of land and its territory. He further asked them whether they needed the surveyors in the first place and if they knew that the surveyors would bring problems to them as they had their own interests. The community’s response was that the surveyors should go and never come back again.

     The surveyors were temporary withdrawn, only to resume the work when the local politicians in liaison with powerful forces imported members of Kipsigis descendants who did the surveying work. The administration police and forest guards were used to guard the exercise twenty four hours with the relief food being in constant supply. The allotment forms and cards were sold in the restaurant and hotels and at other times in the street at the cost of even as little as two thousand (2000.00) shillings per parcel of land. A local district officer Mr. Peter Kingola did made a big kill in the Ogilgei Hotel, Nakuru. Today, he boast of a one storey building in Njoro town.

     To ensure the quick implementation of the scheme, Sokoro Saw Mill was closed at Maji Mazuri and thus left the Koibatek forest intact as pressure was increased in East Mau. In West Mau, Mr. Franklin Bett, the then state house comptroller was allowed to operate a saw mill, this saw mill is said never bought trees from the government, instead it got trees free due to state house factor. The state house letter were used to intimidate the foresters and forestry officials.

     The very same year of 1996 saw the creation of Molo constituency from the larger Molo, the name was later changed to Kuresoi. It also saw the creation of Kuresoi, Elburgon, Naishi and Mau Narok divisions. It also saw the creation of new administrative units within the locations. It also saw the gazetting of new poling stations in the various forest stations, each station with at least three poling station, ironically, when this was being done, there was no habitation, it was still a plan, the forests intact, but the projected population was being imported. A target of eighty five thousand people was to be achieved at all cost; this population transfer exercise is still going on today, not withstanding the change of guard.

     There was also the issuance of the second generation identity cards which then went on uninterrupted beginning with the selected beneficiaries in East Mau being given first priority. Children as young as fourteen years old were issued with identity cards in Teret, Likia and Sururu area, on top of Olenguruone and Keringet divisions. Their adults who were new from other districts also got identity cards with ease. The Ogiek on the other hand had a rough time in getting Identity cards. They were issued once they accepted to be classified as Kalenjins. The Ogiek code was taken over by the new beneficiaries. This was followed by the voter registration exercise where most of the Ogiek were not registered as voters due to lack of Identity Cards. To date majority of Ogiek have not been issued with identity cards, with the old ones still not replaced.

     The title deed issuance was officially launched by the then Head of State on 24 November 1997 at Olenguruone, but not before issuing a scathing attack on those opposed to the exercise and also importation of the so-called tribal clashes victims. He said that if those opposed to the exercise thought that they were more of human rights, he was also a human right advocate.

     Sururu, Likia, Teret and Sigotik had by now been encroached by members of the Kipsigis tribe and renamed Mauche to conceal the original names. This trend of new names was repeated across the Mau complex, followed by small administrative units, schools, churches and trading centres.

     The Ising’etit area of Mariashoni location was equally invaded by one thousand seven hundred senior governments officials and the prominent personalities. Today the area has been nicknamed Kongoreri settlement area. The locals call it the officer’s mess. By 1998, there were thirty seven administration police guarding parcels of lands for senior civil servants in the government, since then, there are twenty six general service unit police guarding for senior police and army officers. Details of those guarding other farms is yet to emerge as everything is kept secret and also the hostile attitudes do not allow socialisation between the Ogiek and the selected beneficiaries, servants and farm labourers. What is only known is that influential officials in the government employed the services of the security personnel in the government. Members of the prisons forces used the prisoners to provide labour in their farms.

     What is known is that while the issue of selling the forest trees was subjected to licensing from the authorities, where the lesser mortals were allowed only to sell a certain number of trees, the untouchables were clearing all their farms and had the saw millers directed to do so. There were also the mounted saw millers which were traversing Mau forest between 1996-2002. The saw mills only operated in farms where they got no interference. These saw mills were even allowed in the not demarcated forests plantations as long as the correct persons were the one licensed to clear the plantations. State machinery have also been used in the same area to uproot tree stamps, in preparation for wheat and barley and also flowers for European market.

     The foresters benefited from this looting while the forest guards were to appear as tax collectors for their masters. There was booming of business and for the first time in the Ogiek history, commercial sex was witnessed. Sexually Transmitted diseases flourished and divorce and broken marriages become the norm. it is a new culture indeed, a cultural matrix transformation in the Ogiek history.

     The poor Ogiek men had nothing to offer to their spouses who thus resulted to this sort of business as part of gaining access to selling forest trees. The love of money took the lead as young ladies opted to be married by new comers. Temporary marriages resulted to temporary wives and husbands.

     The next part was Kapseita area. Here two hundred and eighty eight tribal clashes victims were imported all the way from Chepakundi in Olenguruone. They were used as a key to open up this area, now for the powerful and influential people to allocate either to themselves their wives, girlfriends and kin. This even led to temporary marriages.

     Today, Kapseita has three phases i.e. Part I, II and III. The Ogiek were evicted and a conflict was created. The powerful personalities had started commercialising this land, before the plot was unearthed in which was shelved for the time being. The proposals to this area were made by the local Catholic Church, Nakuru, who made the allocation of 288 clash victims of 1991-92 Chepakundi in Oleguruone.

     On 3rd August 1998 the work was officially set to start by the then new Nakuru DC Mr. John Litunda. He took the map of Bararget and the official work started officially on 5th August 1998. The survey work was done by three private surveyors, one being Mr. P.N Kamanda from Koibatek district. For several months they were hosted by a Mr. Wilson Leitich, as they waited for the government to finalise the security and working arrangements. It has been argued that the Lare clash victims were two hundred and sixty one people only. This being from the correct group had to be secured and thus justified the sub-division of this water catchments area which has so far been allocated to five thousand people. The proposal were supported by the Eldoret branch of National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK).

     The subdivision had already started and the allocation or issuance of allotment letters was issued by the Rift Valley Provincial Commissioner Mr. F.K. Baya. While on 15/12/98, the court orders were being disobeyed by the provincial administrators, the courts on their part listed the Ogiek case only for mentions. Those government officials who favoured the allocation processes were put in strategic areas of approval so as to speed up the officiating process.

     In 1999, our Lawyer pressed hard for the case to be heard and finally we thought that a hearing was finally fixed. The dates of 11th and 12th May 1999 were taken. On 16th April 1999, a third crackdown was carried out and this time Mr. Kimaiyo Towett and Jackson Kumari were the casualties. They were arrested and made to face charges related to incitement, peace disturbance and obstruction of government officials from their lawful duties of land allocation. The charges were later dismissed due to lack of evidence. On 11th and 12 May 1999, the Ogiek were in the high court to hear the case, but to their surprise it was a mention.

     Reasons, no judges allocated. A few days later, the deviant administrators were in Tinet with threats of evicting people. The people of Tinet too went to court. They tasted the wrath of our politically controlled courts, for the judgment was hostile.

     In August, Tinet Ogiek were advised to drop their case and at one time at State House, Nakuru the Head of State reproached them for taking his government to court. After a brief explanation on the circumstances that led to the filing of their case by Mr. Kilel who is one of the suite applicants, the President was convinced that there was no witch hunting. The President went to a separate room only to come back with a document in the company of the then Rift Valley PC, Mr. Francis Kazungu Baya. He read the list of the ten applicants and when he came across Mr. Kilel’s name he stopped briefly and asked Mr. Kilel if he too had gone to accuse his government. Mr. Kilel said that he did it in good faith since all the available mediation avenues were closed. He further added that his community was ready for dialogue as long as it will assure them of their continued stay in Tinet. The President responded that he was part of the court and instructed Baya to see to it that the needs of the Tinet Ogiek were met. Sadly, the government defended their acts in court to the end where the judgment was delivered in their favour.

     At the courts, there was only a mention. The community counsel Mr. Joseph Sergon and Catholic Diocese Attorney Mr. Mirugi Kariuki were not present. This government behaviour set the atmosphere in which the cases were to be argued as witnessed in the of judgement on 23rd March 2000. The government has taken up the matter as part of its political campaign tool. The Kanu government saw it as bait for votes while the Narc government sees it as a conservation tool. In both perceptions the interests and rights of the powerful will override those of the weaker minority as each group will try to outdo the other.


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Copyright © 2004, Ogiek Welfare Council and Towett J. Kimaiyo.
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