25 March 2005

Kenya: Ogieks in Bid to Block Mau Forest Allocations

Nairobi — The Ogiek community has gone to court to block the Government from settling other communities in Mau Forest, which they claim is their ancestral land.

They filed the suit at the High Court in Nakuru, arguing that the Mau Forest was rightly theirs by birth.

They claimed President Kibaki early last year directed that parts of Mau forest to be used to resettle them after he saw their plight.

Yesterday, duty judge Daniel Musinga gave the community the go-ahead to place an advertisement in the media notifying the Government of the suit.

Musinga directed lawyer Nixon Sifuna, appearing for the group, to place an advertisement in either The Standard or Nation before the suit can be heard inter-parties.

The over 1,000 members have named Rift Valley Provincial Commissioner Wilfred Ndolo, who is overseeing the resettlement exercise, as one of the respondents in the suit.

Others are the Commissioner of Lands, the Chief Land Registrar and the Principal Registrar of Titles.

In a suit filed under certificate of urgency, the community wants the Registrar of Titles barred from processing the documents until the case is heard and determined.

Through their representative, Mr Joseph Towett, the community claimed that a Task Force formed by the Government to oversee the resettlement exercise in parts of Mau Forest had ignored it.

In an affidavit, Towett said some government agents had irregularly allocated land meant for the resettlement of the Ogiek to other communities.

" The land allocated is Ogiek ancestral land which is a birth right and no one can purport to take it away from us," said Towett.

Through the Ogiek Welfare Council, the community said in their suit that they were one of the remaining indigenous forest-dwelling communities in Kenya and consider it their ancestral land. Towett said the community was threatened by illegal encroachment by people from other parts of the country.

He said the Ogiek were being discriminated against for being a minority group unlike other Kenyan communities.

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