Kenya: Ogiek Protest Against Plan to Settle Mau Land Dispute

26 October 2020

The government's bid to resolve Eastern Mau Forest land disputes is facing headwinds after the Ogiek threatened to withdraw from the process, citing dishonesty of State officials.

At the centre of the storm is the implementation of the May 26, 2017 landmark judgement by the Arusha-based African Court on Human and People's Rights.

The court ordered the government to take all appropriate measures to remedy violations against the community following past evictions from their ancestral land in Mau Forest.

But as a multi-agency team formed by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i races against time to resolve the perennial land disputes in Eastern Mau, leaders from the community say the government is not honest as it is not keen to implement the landmark judgement.

The Ogiek, through Council of Elders Chairman John Sironga, have opposed the process.

"The State is not keen to implement the Arusha judgment, and we have no option but to reject the process. We want President Kenyatta to implement the judgment to the letter. The team appointed to address the issue did not involve us fully," he said.

"The process, as it is, is a violation of the community's rights. We will not allow the exercise to continue," he added.

Major demonstration

Mr Sironga has threatened to lead the community in a major demonstration to State House Nairobi to register their displeasure with the way the government is handling the matter.

The community is seeking to be given a communal title deed of at least 15,000 hectares.

They have called for proper implementation of the judgement covering the Ogieks living in Uasin Gishu, Nandi, Londiani and Narok.

Mr Daniel Kobei, the executive director of Ogiek Peoples' Development Programme, an NGO that brought the case against the government before the African Commission on Human and Peoples" Rights in 2009, said: "We're demanding at least 15,000 hectares only in the Eastern Mau. We don't want the five acres being offered by government... The government should use the 2017 African court judgement as it seeks to resolve the rampant land tussles in the area."

Mr Kobei added: "We want to be given the block between Teret and Barargei so we help protect the forest."

The Ogiek have been arguing that if resettled in their ancestral land, they will protect and take care of the Mau Forest water tower through community forest protection associations.

20-year tussle

Mr Joseph Towett, another leader from the community, said justice for the Ogiek has been delayed. "The government has been renewing the term of the task force it appointed to implement the judgment since 2018. We now want it to implement the judgement to the letter,"Mr Towett told the Nation.

Their remarks come a month, after Rift Valley Regional Coordinator George Natembeya visited Nessuit to start resolving the more-than-20-year-land tussle. He assured residents that no one would be evicted.

The administrator revealed that President Kenyatta will issue title deeds in December after the taskforce completes the exercise of resettling the residents.

The President had directed that the team completes its mandate by December 12.

The resolution to form the multi-agency team followed a meeting with the Ogiek, Kipsigis and other communities from Eastern Mau Forest in Naivasha last month. Dr Matiang'i said the African Court orders would be followed to the letter.

"We have agreed to accommodate everyone while addressing special requirements that came as a result of a court order from the East African Court of Justice," Dr Matiang'i said.

Since July when the government started plans to evict illegal settlers, flare-ups have rocked the region. Dozens of people have been killed and others maimed due to the protracted land dispute.

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