Maasai Information



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Update: 29.10.2005

Update: 18.10.2005

Update: 17.10.2005

Update: 14.10.2005

Update: 13.10.2005

Update: 11.10.2005

Update: 01- 04.10.2005

Update 11.09.2004

Update 24.08.2004

Update 17.05.2004

Update 20.01.2004


Update: 29.10.2005

Court suspends the transfer of Amboseli park

Publication Date: 10/29/2005

The decision by the Government to degazette Amboseli National Park has been temporarily halted.

A High Court order yesterday suspended the resolution contained in a legal notice dated September by Tourism minister Morris Dzoro. The notice downgraded the park and handed back its management to the Olkejuado County Council.

Granting the temporary orders yesterday, Mr Justice Mathew Anyara Emukule said Mr Dzoro did not follow the due process of law in degazetting the park.

He said the minister ought to have given notice of intention to convert the national park at least 60 days earlier and put an advertisement in at least one newspaper.

Also among the responsibilities of the minister, the court said, was to lay the decision before the National Assembly for at least 100 days. Finally, the National Assembly should have approved the decision.

The court gave the order in a suit filed by conservationists who have challenged the decision to degazette Amboseli.

The East African Wildlife Society, the Youth For Conservation, the Centre for Environmental Legal Research and Education, the Born Free Foundation and Mr George Mulama asked the court to nullify the decision degazetting the park and placing it under management of the council. They maintained the decision was illegal.

The lobbies had said that returning the park to the council contravened the Wildlife Act which, they argued, gave the Kenya Wildlife Service the right to manage national parks.

The change of status was likely to affect the maintenance of the park's ecological integrity, the group had said.

And the minister exceeded his powers by changing the park's status, they said.

The case will come up for hearing on November 15.

Another court heard that the suit filed by the conservationists lacked merit. On October 12 a similar suit was filed before Mr Justice Joseph Nyamu. But the judge declined to grant a temporary order barring Mr Dzoro from degrading the park.

Last week, replying to the earlier suit, the council urged the court to strike out the matter because there were no parties to the suit.


Update: 18.10.2005

Maasai to visit State House

Tuesday October 18, 2005

By Paul Jimbo

Maasai leaders supporting the proposed constitution have said they will seek guidance from President Mwai Kibaki over land issues.

Education minister Prof George Saitoti, assistant minister Gideon Konchella and Kajiado South MP Katoo ole Metitto said they would lead a delegation of Maasai leaders to State House before month end.

Others present were Olkejuado County Council chairman Julius ole Ntayia, former MPs Philip Singa’ru and David ole Sankori.

They said the perceived Orange wave among the Maasai, was born out of lies and propaganda by those opposed to the Wako draft.

They were speaking at a local hotel in Saitoti’s Kajiado North Constituency.

"Despite the so-called Suswa Declaration, we will go ahead to meet the President and nobody should block us," Saitoti said.

"Let nobody pretend that he is senior to us. We are all equal and nobody should come between us and the President," he said.

Saitoti also accused the Orange Movement of harbouring mischief in their campaigns among the Maasai.

"The majority of those making noise in the No team from Maasailand are the same people who were used by the past regime to fight Saitoti," he said.

But he maintained that he would not change his position or change his allegiance to the President.

"Since Kibaki has not betrayed me, why should I lead you to oppose his Government?" he asked.

The minister also said that he would not shy away from the Banana campaign rallies as this could be misinterpreted as cowardice.

The Government, he said, would ensure the Draft Constitution was passed at the referendum.

"I have never been to the opposition and I cannot gamble with my electorate’s political destiny. I know all the avenues to victory," he said.

Saitoti also accused some foreign envoys of interfering with the referendum by allegedly funding the Orange group.

Konchella said later that Cabinet minister William ole Ntimama’s recent Suswa meeting was "not binding on the Maasai".

He said he did not attend the Suswa meeting because it had a tribal agenda aimed at sidelining the Maasai from mainstream leadership.

Meanwhile, the Coast Banana team yesterday demanded that local residents be given title deeds like the Ogiek community.

Speaking at a rally at Mtwapa, Kilifi District, at the weekend, the leaders demanded that Coast squatters "numbering thousands", be issued with title deeds.

The request follows President Kibaki’s rally last weekend where he gave 12,000 title deeds to the Ogiek in Nakuru District.

Cllr Elizabeth Jumwa of Mtwapa urged President Kibaki to issue local squatters with title deeds before October 31 in return for supporting the Wako Draft.

Speakers claimed that Coast Province has been given a raw deal by President Kibaki’s Government.

Kisauni MP Anania Mwaboza said tycoons who are opposed to the Wako Draft wanted to protect their huge tracts of land because the proposed constitution advocates redistribution of land.

The meeting was attended by assistant ministers Danson Mungatana, Suleiman Shakombo and Magarini MP Harisson Kombe.

During the rally, police arrested a man who shouted Orange slogans and attempted to disrupt the meeting.

Magarini MP Harry Kombe claimed the Orange team had a secret political agenda and was not merely opposing the Draft Constitution.


Update: 17.10.2005

Amboseli: On the horns of a dilemma

17. Oct. 2005

Elephants in Amboseli: Many people believe that the
capacity of the 392-square kilometre park to sustain
big game has been outstripped.

John Mbaria writes that although the Olkejuado County Council is ill-prepared to handle the delicate ecosystem of the Amboseli National Park, the Kenya Wildlife Service has itself not fared much better, particularly in ensuring that the local population gains from what was once their communal ancestral land

I VISITED KITILWA, IN the Olgulului Group Ranch that surrounds 90 per cent of the Amboseli National Park, two years ago, I was in the company of a group of 15 or so American tourists who were on a unique tour that combined a wildlife safari with a beadwork workshop with the local Maasai women.

Organised by Meitamei Ol’Dapash, the executive director of the Maasai Environmental Coalition, together with Kurt Kutay, the president of a US-based tour company, Wildland Adventures, the American women – from Seattle, Washington – and their Maasai counterparts showing their experience and techniques for making jewellery and necklaces from beads. To the surprise of the Maasai women, some of the American women were exceptionally gifted at beadwork, and had actually brought along some jewellery they had made back home. They had also brought along quantities of "raw" beads to donate to the Maasai women. 

Apart from the joint beadwork, the Americans were also on a mercy mission. They had donated funds to start up a water project and to assist a school located close to one of the gates of the Amboseli National Park.

As they toured the school, the park and the Maasai villages, the American women came into contact with the horrifying reality that is Amboseli. In the comfort and safety of their tourist vans, they came across a number of Maasai women deep inside the park carrying heavy jerricans of water strapped to their backs. And at Lake Amboseli, they were to experience, first hand, what seemed to have been some unwritten memorandum of understanding between the wild animals and the community on how to share the lake’s water.

Elephants, zebras and other ungulates were taking the water from one end of the lake while on the other, women loaded donkeys with the precious fluid as men kept watch, with hundreds of heads of cattle quenching their thirst. It was a scene from the Peacable Kingdom, with the wild animals keeping to their side of the lake and people and livestock to theirs.

Rarely, though, we were to learn, is this Biblical "MoU" adhered to. The wild animals, and particularly the more than 1,000 elephants in the park, often come into conflict with members of the local community. "Many people have been killed or maimed by elephants," Ol’Dapash told the visitors. 

INDEED, THE COMMUNITY REP-resentative hosting the American women, Daniel Leturesh – who has since become the chairman of the Olgulului Group Ranch – paraded before the Americans six orphaned children whose parents had been killed by the pachyderms. The Americans were horrified to learn that whenever such deaths occur, it takes years before the victims' kin are given the paltry Ksh30,000 ($405) provided for by the law as compensation.

This state of affairs has, over the years, led to simmering bad blood between the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the wild animals, on the one hand, and the community and largely opportunistic politicians on the other. In some cases, this animosity has erupted in open hostility and occasional "revenge" killings by Maasai morans go out to avenge their kinsmen killed or maimed by wild animals.

As we did the rounds, I could not help but realise just how much of the park had been degraded by the wild animals. Much of the taller vegetation – trees and bushes – has been cleared by elephants, which invariably knock them down in search of nutritious leaves. When the rains fail, the grass is almost depleted, leaving most of the park bare. This makes life increasingly uncomfortable for the marauding beasts and visitors alike. Many people believe that the capacity of the 392-square kilometre park to sustain big game has been outstripped, thanks to an alien conservation paradigm that has led KWS to protect wildlife at the expense of ecological sense and the local people's needs.

Hostility has characterised the relationship between the local community and successive government bodies purporting to protect the animals better than the Maasai did for hundreds of years before the advent of British colonial rule. Unlike most other Kenyan communities, the Maasai lived in a curious relationship with wildlife that has been the subject of a number of books by white writers who, more often than not, misinterpret and romanticise it as "harmonious." 

Amboseli is one of the earliest wildlife-dominated areas to be declared a game reserve. It started off as a mega game reserve called the Southern Reserve in 1906, when the colonial government zoned off a large chunk of the local community’s land and declared it a game reserve. It was to be reduced to slightly over 3,000 square kilometres in 1948.

The local community, through its representatives, has always agitated for the size of the park to be reduced. For many years before the central government assumed the management of the park, the Kajiado County Council, later renamed Olkejuado County Council, ran it. This went on until the early 1970s when the government embarked on negotiations for its upgrading. The late minister Stanley Oloitiptip, who was then the Assistant Minister for Health, is said to have played a key role in the park's handing over to the central government. 

He had a long-running dispute with the then county council chairman and led a delegation to president Jomo Kenyatta declaring that the local people had decided to give up the park to the government. The story goes that Kenyatta was reluctant to accept the "gift" and actually gave the delegation three weeks to "think" about the matter. In the meantime, other Maasai leaders spoke against the idea but Oloitiptip stuck to his guns.

THE REST IS HISTORY – KWS, which came into being in 1989, inherited Amboseli from the Wildlife Conservation and Management Department. The government signed some sort of an agreement with Olkejuado County Council in which the council was to receive a Ksh600,000 ($8,000) share of annual revenues and to retain over 180 hectares, on which Amboseli and Oltukai lodges are constructed. The agreement also stated that local communities were to benefit from the arrangement through government-funded water projects and through being allowed to put up a campsite in the park. On their part, the communities were to keep their livestock away from the park.

Initially, the government did meet a number of these conditions. For instance, it constructed a water pipeline from the park to the group ranches in 1977 which, however, fell into disuse three year later. The government also reneged on the revenue-sharing agreement. As if to compensate for this failure, it has allowed the community to water its animals at the permanent swamps inside the park. 

But while over Ksh250 million ($3.4 million) continued to be generated from the park each year – collected as rent and rates from the hotels and lodges and as park entry fees – little of this money ever reached the thousands of local residents who wallow in poverty and deprivation. 

A visitor to their villages will witness the mass deprivation suffered by the local people, especially manifest in sickly-looking young children whose eyes offer a permanent abode to flies. Emaciated women walk, on average, 20 kilometres inside the park in search of water, while scores of morans – young warriors traditionally dedicated to a spartan lifestyle – have been leaving in their hundreds to seek employment in Kajiado, Kitengela, and Nairobi.

So, will handing over the park to Olkejuado County Council rectify the situation? While this is a question the government is best placed to address, it has raised a political storm in Kenya today. The government has been accused of trading the future of Kenya's resources for cheap political mileage, while members of the country's conservation fraternity believe that the move is the beginning of the end for Amboseli.

On its part, the Olkejuado County Council, which had filed a court case in 1997 seeking to have the park revert to it, has dismissed the naysayers and invited KWS and other organisations to partner with it in managing the park.

PRIOR TO THE GOVERN-ment's action, Kenyans were generally agreed that devolving authority brings governance and resources closer to the people. Both the Bomas Draft and the Wako Draft constitutions that Kenyans are now campaigning for and against have sections and clauses on devolution of management of resources from the central government to local communities.

But though this has been the clamour, the reality, as far as wildlife conservation is concerned, has been different. The management of the Maasai Mara National Reserve has been cited as a case in point. The revenue collected by the Narok County Council, which runs the Mara, runs into hundreds of millions of shillings each year. But there is little to show for it. The roads in the Mara are in a permanently dilapidated state, while off-road driving by thousands of tour vans in search of the ever-rarer carnivores is the norm, leading to severe environmental degradation. 

There have also been media reports that communities in the surrounding group ranches rarely benefit from their rightful 19 per cent share of the annual revenue, while the nature of the conservation practised by the Narok County Council is hardly professional.

And according to the government, part of the Mara fell into private hands during the reign of former president Daniel arap Moi, a situation that is still under investigation. Moreover, each time these issues are raised, some Maasai leaders mobilise or threaten to mobilise the entire community to rise against any move to stop the looting and to bring order and better management to the Mara.

Amboseli is a more "delicate" nature reserve. While the Mara ecosystem can withstand the ongoing degradation, the Amboseli cannot. It has a fragile ecosystem that is characterised by low vegetative cover, low annual rainfall and high temperatures. The seasonal combination of all these characteristics literally converts Amboseli into a dust bowl each time the rains are late. It is feared that further degradation, by way of off-road driving and other destructive practices, could precipitate its decline into a full-blown desert.

In addition, many of Amboseli's animal species – impalas, rhinos, etc – have disappeared and there is a likelihood that lacklustre management could lead to further loss or extinction of rare species. The biggest danger to the animals is the bush meat trade and the fact that once animals cross over to Tanzania, they become a target for hunters, since that country has allowed consumptive utilisation of wildlife.

WHAT TO DO? IF Kibaki's government does not reverse its decision to hand over the park to the Olkejuado County Council, it is likely to find itself inundated by similar demands from other communities that were forcibly evicted from their ancestral lands to make way for the more than 50 national parks and reserves in the country. With the ongoing opening of democratic space, everybody will soon start demanding to be given back what was once theirs. President Mwai Kibaki’s action might have opened up a pandora's box. Soon, KWS might be forced to go back to its drawing board to re-examine its mandate.

The Olkejuado County Council has conceded that it does not have the capacity to handle the conservation role thrust upon it by the president. This does not mean that KWS is best placed to run the park, however, as it has itself not been responsive to the local people's needs. The government may need to authorise the council to hire KWS to continue managing wildlife conservation in the park as the council handles other roles. The council will need to use part of the resources it will derive from the new arrangement to build its own capacity.

Ultimately, though, what is needed are legal guidelines that spell out the dos and don'ts in the management of wildlife areas by local authorities. The die seems cast; local authorities or local representative organisations seem hellbent on assuming the management of natural resources in Kenya.

It is time international and local NGOs heeded this fact and sought to learn how to perfect local management systems. Perpetual antagonism, just like incompetence and corruption, is part of the problem.


Update: 14.10.2005

Amboseli no 'disaster waiting to happen'

Publication Date: 10/14/2005

While the Maasai recognise the importance of Amboseli National Park as a natural heritage and cash cow; and while they appreciate the reserve's importance to global conservation, they are perplexed by the persistent relegation of their interests on all economic and environmental conservation and management decision-making. 

As representatives of Maasai interests in different roles I repudiate the misguided position taken by our colleagues in the conservation and tourism sectors against the Government’s move to right the historical injustices perpetrated against the Maasai.

Conservation myopia and exclusionist ideology accompanied by persistent lack of appreciation of the role played by the Maasai in conservation are a grave danger to conservation and the long-term prosperity of wildlife in Kenya. 

Faithful custodians of wildlife

The Maasai have remained faithful custodians of most of East Africa’s wildlife – a cultural practice that existed long before the arrival of Western concepts of conservation. Nevertheless, conservationists continue to refuse to learn from Maasai wisdom and true respect for nature.

What is perplexing about the anti-Maasai campaign is that its architects are all great beneficiaries of Maasailand. 

We take issue with Dr David Western whose recent statements left a great deal to be desired in light of his patronising 'pro-community' philosophy. 

It is ironic that Dr Western has become a big part of this anti-community movement whole purpose is to perpetuate the violation of the Maasai traditional land rights. What would he be without the Maasai people, particularly the Amboseli community? 

Yet, he was the first to speak against the return of Amboseli to its rightful owners! 

The opposition by the Kenya Tourism Federation is motivated by greed and lack of vision. When accusing fingers are pointed at Narok County Council for mismanaging the Maasai Mara, the tourism industry fails to recognise that the most serious environmental crimes, including wildlife harassment, off-the-road driving, pollution, and cultural abuse and exploitation of the Maasai is committed by its own members. 

The return of Amboseli to the Maasai is less illegal than the economic, environmental, and human rights violations perpetrated by the tourism industry against the Maasai and nature. In fact, the federation lacks any moral standing to accuse Olkejuado County Council of ineptitude.

What the anti-Maasai campaigners fail to understand is that it is not President Kibaki’s decision to return Amboseli to the Maasai that is illegal; rather, it is the original decision to transfer the management of Amboseli to the then Wildlife Conservation and Management Department in 1974. 

What legal or constitutional process did Mzee Jomo Kenyatta follow when he used Executive fiat to declare Amboseli a national park? If Kenyatta’s order was legal or constitutional, why isn’t President Kibaki’s? 

In addition, anti-Maasai campaigners also lack the basic facts about what actually transpired in 1974 when Mzee Kenyatta declared Amboseli a national park instead of a game reserve. To this date, the Olkejuado County Council holds the title to Amboseli, and is thus the legal custodian of the resource.

President Kibaki’s decision is praiseworthy and has the support of the entire Maasai community. It stems out of recognition of the widespread land rights injustices against the Maasai people. 

New management agenda

Finally, we call on the conservation community – both local and international – to seek partnership with Olkejuado County Council to create a new management agenda for Amboseli Game Reserve. 

The Kenya Wildlife Service should take a leading role in advising the county council on how to go about managing the reserve. Alternatively, KWS could go into a management agreement with the council. 

There is absolute need to help build the capacity of the communities and Olkejuado County Council in particular. Lack of this capacity must not be misconstrued as lack of dedication and commitment to the future of our resources. 

Mr Dapash is the president of the Maasai Environmental Resource Coalition based in Washington D.C., USA.


Talks planned on hand-over of Amboseli

Publication Date: 10/14/2005

Talks are planned to discuss handing over of Amboseli National Reserve to the Maasai, despite protests and court action by conservationists.

Tourism minister Morris Dzoro said he had brokered talks between the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Olkejuado County Council on the management of the park.

KWS would not move out of the wildlife sanctuary but is would continue to run it on behalf of the council, the minister said.

"It is crucial that KWS does not move out of the park," Mr Dzoro said, adding that the council lacked the capacity to manage Amboseli.

The minister's announcement regarding management puts to rest fears that KWS could be kicked out of the reserve.

The minister spoke after signing a Sh6-million agreement between EU's Tourism Trust Fund and the Tana and Athi Rivers Development Authority at Masinga on Wednesday. The money will be used to draw up a master plan to open up the Tana basin as a tourist circuit.

Olkejuado council has written to KWS asking it to arrange to hand over the park. But KWS said it would wait for communication from the ministry.

Amboseli was scaled down from a national park to a game reserve on President Kibaki's orders and returned to the Maasai community.

The decision was reached during a meeting of the community's representatives and President.

Conservationists have opposed the move and this week moved to court to block the intended transfer.

They want the decision to degazette the park nullified, arguing that it contravenes the Wildlife Act, which gives KWS the right to manage national parks.

The notice, they say, is a threat to environmental conservation and that the council lacks the technical capacity to sustainably manage the reserve. The Court has, however, declined to temporarily stop the transfer, pending hearing.


Update: 13.10.2005

Amboseli National Park transfer halted

By Nyakundi Nyamboga

Conservationists yesterday won round one of their bid to block Olkejuado County Council from taking over Amboseli National Park.

The High Court allowed an environmentalist, George Mulama Wamukoya, and four groups to file a suit seeking to reverse a Government decision to hand over the park to Olkejuado County Council.

The groups are East Africa Wildlife Society, Centre for Environmental Legal Research and Education, Born Free Foundation, Youth for Conservation.

They want the court to quash a decision by the Tourism minister to change the status of the sanctuary from a national park to a national game reserve.

The applicants were allowed to seek orders quashing the September 29, 2005 decision by the Government.

On Wednesday, the council demanded immediate handover of the facility, and told KWS to withdraw it management.

The civic leaders also appointed a six-member committee to oversee the handing over and avoid interruption of services. They accused KWS and its former director, Dr David Western, of sabotage.

They also resolved to send 80 community game scouts to keep guard at the vast tourist attraction.

But yesterday, Justice Joseph Nyamu directed the applicants to file and serve the substantive motion within five days and be ready for inter partes hearing on October 25.

He issued the orders after hearing an ex parte application by the conservationists through Musyoka and Wambua advocates.

The applicants told the High Court they were likely to be affected by any changes that do not recognise Amboseli as a resource of national and international importance that must be protected and managed for the benefit of present and future generations.

The conservationists claim transfer of the park breaches environmental agreements.

They say there will be increased poaching, deterioration of infrastructure, loss of biodiversity and decrease in tourist numbers.

They said the minister did not recognise national interest, which militates against such lands being converted to trust land.

The court was told the legal notice is illegal because it goes against procedures under which a national park may be transferred.

The conservationists said it was regrettable that Kenya Wildlife Service was not consulted over the transfer.


Update: 11.10.2005

Kenya wildlife haven downgraded

By Adam Mynott
BBC News, Nairobi

More than 20 wildlife groups have urged Kenya's president to reverse a decision last week to downgrade Amboseli National Park to a game reserve.

This means control of the Rift Valley wildlife haven will move from the Kenya Wildlife Service to a local authority, run by the area's Maasai community.

Opponents of the change say it is an attempt to win Maasai votes ahead of next month's constitution referendum.

But supporters say the Maasai will now benefit from Amboseli's revenue.

Amboseli brings in about $3.3m a year from park fees

They say it corrects what was the "theft" of Amboseli 31 years ago, when the land was taken away from the Maasai people who had lived on it for generations.


Amboseli, internationally renowned as a haven for wildlife, particularly the huge herds of elephants that tramp across the grasslands, covers an area of nearly 400 sq km in southern Kenya.

It is famous for the stunning views of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain, in neighbouring Tanzania.

The open letter to President Mwai Kibaki from the Born Free Foundation, the International Wildlife Coalition, the East African Wildlife Society and others says the move, known as de-gazetting, "sets a most unwelcome and potentially catastrophic precedent that could lead to the disintegration of Kenya's much envied national parks system".

Amboseli brings in about $3.3m a year from park fees and related tourist activities. This money helps administer Amboseli and other national parks in Kenya.

The Maasai community will now benefit from Amboseli's revenue

Wildlife tourism is one of Kenya's main sources of foreign revenue and international prestige.


Now the income from Amboseli will be administered by the Olkejuado County Council following its members' meeting with the president last week.

The decision to de-gazette Amboseli has come in the middle of a fractious political battle over a proposed new constitution for Kenya.

President Kibaki leads the campaign for a 'yes vote' in the forthcoming referendum.

" [It's a] desperate measure to secure Maasai votes "

Cabinet minister William ole Ntimama

Kenyan cabinet minister William ole Ntimama described the Amboseli decision as a "desperate measure to secure Maasai votes" in the referendum on 21 November.

The Maasai leaders of Olkejuado County Council are delighted to have control of such a lucrative source of income.

Opponents also claim that the move to de-gazette is illegal.



Kenya Conservationists, Government Clash Over Park Management

11 October 2005

Conservation groups in Kenya have voiced concern over a recent move by the government to hand over the management of a national park to local authorities saying the move is detrimental to conservation and the tourism industry in the country.

View of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Amboseli National Park

The decision to involve local council authorities in the management of Amboseli National Park was reached late last month after a meeting between elders from the areas bordering the national park and President Mwai Kibaki.

But conservation groups in Kenya term the move illegal.

Steve Itela is a program officer with Youth for Conservation, a group of young Kenyans working to preserve wildlife in Kenya.

"There are very clear procedures involved in the act that give direction as to how a national park can be de-gazetted and in this particular case there was a complete violation of the wildlife and conservation and management act that is cap. 378," he said.

Mr. Itela says that section of the law prohibits the conversion of national parks into other land use patterns without exhaustive debate by all stakeholders including parliament. He says the government did not consult conservation groups, the public nor parliament before turning Amboseli National Park over to local management.

Amboseli National Park lies to the south of the capital Nairobi and is one of the most visited parks in Kenya. It was declared a national reserve in 1948 and given to the Maasai community, but because of conflict between them and the wild animals it was converted to a national park in 1974.

The government's move to return its management to local authorities has been seen by some as an attempt to lure the Maasai into voting for a draft constitution prepared by the government, but which risks rejection in national referendum mid-November.

But in downgrading Amboseli National Park to a national reserve and vesting its management to the local Olkejuado County Council, Tourism Minister Morris Dzoro evoked the wildlife conservation and management act and denies playing politics.

"As far as am concerned there is no politics in it," he said. "This is something that has been going on before and it should not be read in the outlook of politics. We reached at this stage after the leaders had approached us and it was after a very long discussion that we reached such a stage."

Mr. Dzoro says his office is ready to talk further with the stakeholders in wildlife conservation arguing that the Kenya wild life service will assist the local communities manage what is now known as Amboseli National Reserve.

Mr. Hadley Decha, deputy director at the East African Wildlife Society, says the governments move has motivated more local authorities to demand that management of national parks in their neighborhoods be handed over to them, despite the fact that they lack the skills to manage the wildlife.

The conservation groups are asking President Mwai Kibaki to rescind his decision or they say they will take the matter to court.



State hands back Amboseli National Park to the Maasai

NATION, Nairobi
Publication Date: 10/01/2005

The Government has handed back Amboseli National Park to the Maasai in what appears to be a move to woo the community into the Banana camp before the November 21 referendum.

President Kibaki on Thursday directed that a legal notice be issued to ensure the park was returned to the community as trust land.

Through a special gazette notice issued on the same day by Tourism and Wildlife minister Morris Dzoro, the park now becomes a national reserve and will be run by Olkejuado County Council.

Yesterday, Health assistant minister Gideon Konchellah and Kajiado South MP Katoo ole Metito led the community in declaring that they would support the Government since it had corrected a wrong committed 31 years ago.

They said the Sh250 million the park generated in gate fees every year would henceforth be managed by the community. In August, the park collected Sh40 million.

The decision to return the park to the community was reached at a meeting at State House, Nairobi, with President Kibaki, who directed that the community be given the rights to manage the reserve.

Maa Civil Society Forum chairman Ben Koisaba addresses the Press in Nairobi yesterday, accompanied by Mr Ole Leposo from Magadi. He criticised the move to transfer Amboseli National Park to Olkejuado council.

Also present at the State House meeting on Thursday were Transport minister Chris Murungaru, Narok South MP Stephen ole Ntutu, attorney-general Amos Wako and director of public prosecutions Keriako Tobiko.

But in a quick rejoinder, some Maasai leaders said the decision would not change their stand against the proposed new Constitution.

Speaking at Bomas of Kenya, officials of Maa Civil Society Forum urged the community to reject the move, saying the proposed new Constitution was clear that all national parks and game reserves would revert to the Government. They criticised MPs Konchellah and Metito for not consulting the community before the State House visit. 

Their views were supported by Cabinet minister William ole Ntimama, who described the move to return the Amboseli as a "desperate measure to secure Maasai votes" in the referendum.

Mr Ntimama said article 80 (1) (g) of the new Draft put reserves under the National Land Commission.

He added that the decision was unlawful as it required a parliamentary resolution to give the park back to the Maasai. Said Mr Ntimama: "It is a hoax...a desperate effort to get the Maasai votes during the referendum. This is flouting of the law."

Yesterday, Mr Konchellah accused some Maasai leaders of peddling lies and distorting provisions of the proposed new Constitution for political gain.

"They are lying to our people that this Draft will take away the Maasai Mara and Samburu national reserves," he said.

There will be a ceremony to hand over the reserve to the locals today at Amboseli as other Maasai converge on Suswa to back the No campaign.

Head of the Public Service and secretary to the Cabinet Francis Muthaura refuted claims that the Government would take the management of national reserves if the proposed new Constitution was passed.

Mr Muthaura said in a statement that the responsibility of the Government would be to ensure natural resources were sustainably developed and managed to benefit Kenyans. 

He added: "National reserves such as Maasai Mara, Samburu and others do not come under the article and they do not therefore fall under the mandate of the national government."

The 20,000-member Siana Wildlife Conservancy in Maasai Mara also announced they would vote against the proposed new Constitution. 

In a statement signed by Mr Sammy ole Nkoitoi, the conservancy said the document would force the Maasai to cede the Maasai Mara Game Reserve and other sanctuaries in Kajiado and Narok districts.

The Kenya Wildlife Service, he added, in conjunction with the council would manage the reserve.

He declared that the Gazette notice resolves a case lodged by the community at the High Court demanding reversal of the 1974 decision to take charge of the park.

The notice reads in part: "In exercise of the powers conferred by sections 18 of the Wildlife (Conservation and Management) Act, the Minister for Tourism and Wildlife, after consultation with Olkejuado County Council, hereby declares the area of land described in the schedule hereto to be a national reserve which shall be known as Amboseli National Reserve, to vest in and be held by Olkejuado County Council."

The coordinator of the Maa Civil Society Forum, Godfrey Ntapayia, wondered said the management of Amboseli by Olkejuado County Council would only be temporary adding that it would be null and void if the new constitution came into effect. 

"We are convinced that this is another divide and rule strategy to draw rift between the community and undermine its solidarity," he said.

The forum officials asked why the transfer was only being done in Kajiado and not in Laikipia, Transmara, Isiolo, Marsabit, Nakuru, Samburu and Narok.

The elders said the termination of a case against the Maasai arrested at Uhuru Park while on a peaceful demonstration last year was yet another move woo the community into the yes bandwagon.

They argued that the proposed constitution considered grazing lands as idle and would be under the control of the National Land Commission.

Mr Ben ole Koissaba, the chairman of the Maa Civil Society Forum, challenged Mr Metito and Konchellah to attend today's meeting at Suswa which would discuss the proposed constitution.

"Should they fail to show up it shall be taken as confirmation that they are on the wrong and should apologise," said Mr ole Koissaba.


It's a recipe for disaster


Publication Date: 10/2/2005

The Government has published a gazette notice transforming the Amboseli National Park into a game reserve. This is not just a change of name. Amboseli will cease to be run as a state-owned institution through the Kenya Wildlife Service. It will now be managed by the Olkejuado County Council. In other words, Amboseli has been handed back to the local people. 

And the local leaders, obviously, are happy. They can look at Narok and Trans Mara districts which have some of the richest county councils in Kenya courtesy of revenue from the Maasai Mara Game Reserve.

Kajiado leaders can also anticipate a financial windfall to build schools, hospitals and roads. So, in terms of promoting rural development, the Government has done the right thing. The revenue will directly benefit of the local people.

However, the timing suggests that the decision was based not on the need to give Kajiado people control of their resources, but as part of a bid to entice them to back the Government position on the vote for the proposed new Constitution. To put it more bluntly, official policy is being dictated by the need to bribe specific communities in order to secure their political backing. 

Such an approach to policy is recipe for disaster. It's a bankrupt approach which indicates that the Government is ready to throw all decency out of the window in order to win the referendum. It also appears to vindicate those claiming that some leaders are being bribed to secure their support for the Yes vote. 

This is not the first example of policy being dictated by politics. The Government has also reversed the controversial edict banning the sub-division of agricultural land under 2.5 acres. It is again obvious that the decision was based not on common sense, but on referendum politics, having become a major propaganda weapon for the No campaign! 

Maybe it is for the good that politics is forcing the Government to make quick and right decisions on vexing issues. However, policy must never be dictated by the need for short-term political gain. For sooner or later, a decision will be made which could have terrible consequences.


Minister criticised over move on park

NATION, Nairobi
Publication Date: 10/3/2005

The decision to degazette Amboseli National Park by ministerial notice is illegal, former Kenya Wildlife Service director David Western has said.

Neither President Kibaki nor Tourism and Wildlife minister Morris Dzoro has the power to degazette a national park.

The power, he said, rests solely with the National Assembly.

He was reacting to press reports which said the government had decided to hand back the Amboseli national park to the Maasai community.

President Kibaki on Thursday directed that a legal notice be issued to ensure the park was returned to the community as trust land.

Mr Dzoro issued a special gazette notice on the same day making the park a national reserve to be run by Olkejuado County Council. Yesterday, Mr Western said the country's parks risk being wiped out if the "government is allowed to go ahead with the illegal degazettment".

This, he said, will put the entire wildlife and tourism industry in jeopardy.

Any change to protected areas should be done legally and by due political and public process, he added.

Amboseli was gazetted as a national park in 1974 and can only be degazetted again if the minister consults competent authorities like KWS.

The minister, he said, must then publish a notice of intent, with details, inviting objections within 60 days.

After the notice lapses, the order must be placed before the National Assembly and ratified, Mr Western said. 

At the same time, a Coast lobby wants seven national parks in the province handed over to communities through local authorities.

The Pwani Environmental Resource Alliance threatened to vote No during the referendum on the proposed new Constitution if government failed to grant the demand. The national parks listed include Tsavo national park (For Taita-Taveta), Shimba Hills and Kisite Mpunguti marine parks (Kwale) and Mombasa marine park (Mombasa). 

Others are Watamu and Malindi marine parks (Malindi), Arabuko-Sokoke (Kilifi and Malindi), Kiunga marine reserve (Lamu) and Tana national primate reserve (Tana River).

The group, in a statement signed by Mr Benjamin Dalu, queried the criteria used to degazette Amboseli.


Park move illegal, says society

NATION, Nairobi
Publication Date: 10/4/2005

The move to degazette the Amboseli National Park was illegal, said a conservation group yesterday.

By degazetting the park, the Government had contravened the Wildlife (Conservation and Management) Act, said the East African Wildlife Society (EAWLS).

The move to degazette the national park also overlooked the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) which is responsible for the management and conservation of wildlife in the country.

A warden points at elephants in Amboseli wildlife park, now at the centre of controversy after the State placed it under a county council. Photo/Nation file

The Government's move is likely to affect donor funding for the wildlife policy, being undertaken by the United States Agency for International Development (USaid) and the infrastructure and park development by the European Union, both projects under the KWS.

One of the leading international bodies on wildlife conservation, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) said it was studying the situation before it states its position.

The wildlife society said the degazettement was contrary to Section 7 of the Wildlife Act, which states that the minister must consult with a competent authority before changing the status of any national park, national reserve, local sanctuary or even a part of it.

The order to degazette such an area must also get approval from Parliament and a notice of 60 days must be published in the Kenya Gazette and in at least one newspaper in the country.

Last Thursday, President Kibaki directed the Tourism minister to issue a legal notice to ensure that Amboseli is returned to the Maasai community as trust land.

On the same day, minister Morris Dzoro issued a special gazette notice making the national park a national reserve to be run by Olkejuado county council.

But the notice did not stick to the Wildlife Act.

The Government broke the law, said EAWLS chairman Imre Loefler in a statement, and added that it was not surprising that the action was taken without any consultation of the many organisations that have being involved in the history of Amboseli – one of the best known game parks in the world.

"The East African WildLife Society regards the degazettement as illegal and detrimental to Amboseli as well as prejudicial to conservation policy," said the society.

The EAWLS said it supported the concept that local communities should benefit from parks but was doubtful that the latest move would benefit those around Amboseli.

"The Amboseli has been the responsibility of Kajiado county council before and was made into a national park precisely because of poor management, encroachment, environmental degradation, non-compliance with national and international conservation policies and interminable wrangling," said the society.

The EAWLS said it had persistently criticised the manner in which income from game parks is distributed. 

"Handing over the park, however dramatic the gesture may be and whatever political constellation may have motivated it, is reckless, for the Kajiado county council has neither the capacity nor the experience to manage Amboseli," said Dr Loefler.

The society said it was concerned about the domino effect that the ill conceived and illegal action may trigger.

Last weekend, a lobby from Coast Province laid claim to seven national parks in the area, demanding that they be handed over to the communities through the local authorities.

The KWS declined to comment on the impact of the move by the Government but conservationists, including former director David Western termed the decision negative.

They said the Amboseli ecosystem was delicate and needed proper scientific management compared to that of the Masai Mara.

Conservationists warned that donors are likely to withhold funding until after the November 21 referendum on the proposed new Constitution to see the direction wildlife management will take.

Putting parks under local communities had not been successful, they said and cited the Masai Mara as an example where money collected never reached the community.

The elephant research programme at Amboseli is one of the few projects that have survived with little disturbance in natural conditions. Each elephant has a tag and is closely monitored.


State goofed on Amboseli


Publication Date: 10/4/2005

Generally speaking, there has been order in managing public resources during President Kibaki's three-year tenure. Illegalities – like allocating land to politically-correct individuals and giving public utilities to private people – have been rare.

But doubts are beginning to emerge. Will this sobriety continue to hold? One case that raises this question is the decision to degazette the Amboseli National Park and return it to the Maasai community.

A national park is an institution which the Government is managing for the public. The Revenues it generates goes to the central Government and thus benefits everybody when used to finance other public services.

This will cease once Amboseli becomes community property, benefiting only those around to it.

Even then, procedures exist for transferring a national park to a community. But none was followed in returning Amboseli to the Maasai. 

The rules were put in place simply to guard against subjective and whimsical decisions by political leaders, who – if left unchecked– are apt to meddle with public utilities to gain certain political advantages..

At a time of deep political tensions, degazettement of a park can only be seen as a desperate attempt to bribe the Maasai into supporting a certain political agenda.

If the plan is allowed to go on, then an extremely dangerous precedent will have been set. Future presidents and ministers will have the justification to change the status of national parks and other public utilities at will. 

At any rate, what will now hold other communities from seeking direct ownership of animal parks in their respective neighbourhoods?

And it raises the perennial question of a community's financial and organisational ability to run such an institution – especially faced with the local governments' dismal failure to manage anything successfully. 

Game parks are at the heart of Kenya's tourism industry and any action that jeopardises their survival is a direct threat to the sector and to the entire economy. 

There are many ways of granting favours. Using a national heritage is not one them. Amboseli, therefore, is a path to disaster.

Maasai land claims rejected by the government (August 2004)

  • One million hectares of Maasai land was leased for 99 years to British settlers in 1894 

  • The government does not recognise the lease 

  • The one million hectare area shared among white farmers and black Kenyans, who practice small-scale farming 

  • The Maasai want the white farmers to be evicted

"The Kenyan government has rejected demands by ethnic Maasai protesters for the return of land leased to British settlers 100 years ago. 
Lands Minister Amos Kimunya said the government did not recognise the colonial-era treaties. 

The original lease expired this weekend on one million hectares of land, traditionally used by the Maasai and then occupied by white farmers. 

On Friday, more than 100 Maasai tribesman demonstrated in Nairobi. 

Dressed in traditional regalia, the Maasai handed a petition to the Kenyan lands and justice ministries and demanded compensation from the UK. 

The one million hectare area is now subdivided among some white farmers, who own ranches, and black Kenyans, who practice small-scale farming. 

The Maasai want the white farmers to be evicted and compensation from the British for the land occupied by the black farmers. 

The Maasai Civil Society Group, which represents members of the community scattered in eight districts throughout Kenya, says if the demands are not met, it will consider legal action." (BBC, 16 August 2004) 

"Kenyan riot police have used tear gas to disperse more than 100 Maasai protesters in traditional outfits in the capital, Nairobi. 

The Kenyan police said they used force because the protest was illegal. 

The Maasai are demanding the return of farmland leased to British settlers 100 years ago. 

The original lease expired last weekend on one million hectares of land but the government says it does not recognise the colonial era agreement. 

"We have arrested quite a number of ringleaders and recovered knives from them because this meeting was illegal," Nairobi police chief Julius Ndegwa told AFP news agency. 

Maasai leaders say up to 10 people were wounded in running battles. 

A Maasai statement said their lawyers would take their fight to the Kenyan High Court and the International Court of Justice. 


Over the weekend, Kenyan police shot dead a 70-year-old Maasai tribesman who was trying to graze his cattle on a white-owned farm. 

Four other herdsman were injured in the shooting which took place 40 km north of Nanyuki township in central Kenya. Police said 71 people, all believed to be Maasai land protesters, were arrested. 

Last week the Maasai held demonstrations across Kenya. 

The 99-year lease expired on 15 August. 

The one million hectare area, mainly in the Rift Valley, is now subdivided among some white farmers, who own ranches, and black Kenyans, who practice small-scale farming. 

The Maasai want the white farmers that remain to be evicted and are seeking compensation from the British. 

The Kenyan government rejected their appeals. 

Lands and Housing Minister Amos Kimunya said at the weekend that the government would not condone the occupation of private farms and ranches by any groups. 

"It should be clear that those inciting the youth will face the full force of the law," he said.

(BBC, 24 August 2004)


The Maasai Stand up to IUCN Displacement Attempts from their Forest

WRM bulletin - July 2004

Way back in 1994, a group of NGO people –among whom the current WRM coordinator- were invited by the Maasai to visit a forest which they were struggling to save from tourism "development". As a means of providing international support to the struggle, an article was written and widely disseminated in November that year in Third World Network's magazine "Resurgence" (available at That struggle is still ongoing, but a new actor has appeared in scene -the IUCN- and what follows provides a detailed description of the situation as it now stands and on how the local people feel about it. 

The Naimina Enkiyio Forest, one of the few remaining indigenous forests in Kenya, is situated in Loita, in the south of the country, about 300 kilometers southwest of the country’s capital Nairobi. The forest ecosystem is considered a shrine by the estimated 40,000 Maasai of the Purko and Loita clans, since it is an important natural resource which has a long history of use by them. The Loita pastoralists consider the forest as alive, and responsive in many ways to their physical, spiritual and cultural needs. It serves as an important dry season grazing zone as well as a source for numerous rivers and is home to a wide array of fauna and flora ranging from elephants to rare bird and plant species. Particular trees are regarded as sacred. The many valuable forest-based products include products derived directly from trees (medicine, edible fruits and seeds, honey, and poles) as well as water, grass for livestock, and other plants. The Maasai see the forest as their responsibility and its sustainable use as a must. 

But now, a plan by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) may entail the Maasai’s displacement from the Naimina Enkiyio forest. This is not the first time that IUCN projects displace them from their traditional lands. A similar IUCN project in Ngorongoro in the 1980s forced Maasai to move out of the area to pave the way for the development of a national park. 

"[The British] moved us from Nairobi and Nakuru [in the early 1900s], but we shall fight current attempts to move us from Naimina Enkiyio," declared an angry Loita elder during a June 7 demonstration which gathered one thousand Maasai to oppose what they see as a takeover of the management of the 33,000 hectare forest in Kenya’s Narok district. According to reports sent to the Centre for Minority Rights Development (CEMIRIDE), violence erupted when police allegedly fired shots into the crowd of protesters and injured a number of Maasai. 

By supporting the takeover, the Narok County administration would be contradicting its October 2002 statement which granted Loita and Purko Maasai the right to conserve, protect, control, preserve, and own the Naimina Enkiyio forest. However, the future of the Naimina Enkiyio forest has been debated since 1995 when the Narok County Council tried to gazette the area for tourism. Despite legal opposition from the Loita Maasai, this case has yet to be resolved. 

IUCN regional representative Eldad Tukahirwa says the objective of the project is to reduce Maasai dependency on the forest by developing their livestock and "building their conscience on the value of the forest." Tukahirwa said the project proposal was based on "a year and a half of consultations with the community." 

But those opposed to the plan argue that consultations were inadequate. While pro-IUCN stakeholders are well-represented in the proposed management body for the forest, the Loita/Purko support groups “Loita Concerned Residents” and “Forest Morans” (young Maasai men) have been left out. They allege that the Narok County Council has supported the IUCN because of the $2.6 million earmarked for the project. 

Regarding the IUCN’s stated intent to provide technical support to a forest management team selected by the Loita/Purko community and IUCN, Vincent Ole Ntekerei, spokesman for the Forest Morans and Loita Concerned Citizens, asserts, "Naimina Enkiyio is one of the few ungazzetted forests in Kenya, solely managed by the Maasai for centuries and therefore there is nothing new we would be learning from IUCN." 

The resistance opposed by the Maasai may have rendered fruits. The permanent secretary in the Office of the President in charge of Provincial Administration, Mr Dave Mwangi, ordered the Narok DC, Mr John Egesa, to halt the project until complaints raised by the Maasai community are addressed. What would that mean remains to be seen. 

Article based on information from: “Loita and Purko Maasai resist IUCN plans for the Naimina Enkiyio Forest”, Michael Ole Tiampati, sent by Cultural Survival Weekly Indigenous News, June 25, 2004, E-mail: ; “Kenya: Contentious Forest Plan Halted”, East African Standard, June 25, 2004,, ; “Loita project of integrated forest conservation and management (preparatory phase)”,


Mushrooming Lodges, Sedentary Maasai: Mara at the Crossroads of History

EAST-AFRICAN - Monday, May 17, 2004 

The problems in the Maasai Mara will be solved when the country starts to look at the Maasai Mara as a national heritage rather than a property for one community alone - John Baxendale, senior wildlife and tourism officer, Mara Conservancy, speaking to The Eastafrican at his Mara office located in the Mara Triangle.

Striking a balance between the expansion of tourism, stopping degradation of the Maasai Mara, saving the wildlife and leaving the local pastoralist community's lifestyle intact is probably the greatest challenge facing conservation in the game reserve. 

With 50 tourist lodges and camps competing for space in the 1,530 sq km reserve – most of which are located near watering places along the Tarek and Mara rivers – the Maasai community feels that the investors have interfered with their ancestral watering holes and obstructed their access and that of their livestock and the wildlife to water. 

Simon Pareyo, a community officer in charge of Siana, Koyiaki and Lemek ranches in Narok District, says is an increasing incidence of water-borne diseases in Mara-Rienda along the Mara River, which is attributed to water pollution. 

And National Environmental Management Authority director general Prof Ratemo Michieka says the Maasai Mara is facing many environmental problems, so "We shall not allow sources of water to keep diminishing due to degradation." 

Prof Michieka, told The EastAfrican, "We have directed that the lodges and the camps apply the recommended waste disposal processes and also carry out an environmental audit. We have communicated to the Maasai Mara investors asking them to ensure they do an environmental impact assessment before embarking on any further development." 

But even as lack of policy over pollution in the world renowned Maasai Mara National Reserve continues, the local community too is exchanging its traditional lifestyle from pastoralism to subsistence and commercial farming, thereby creating a human-animal conflict situation where none existed before.

 According to Mr Pareyo, this drift has adversely affected the conservation concept. But he also challenges investors in the game reserve to step up their conservation efforts as their business depends on wildlife resources. 

Although poaching has been reduced, there have been incidents of poachers targeting hippos, elephants and zebras. Edward Nkoitoi, a warden with the Mara Conservancy, which has been contracted by the Trans Mara County Council to manage the Mara Triangle, said 284 poachers were arrested between last year and this year. 

Mr Nkoitoi said 15 of the poachers were Kenyan nationals while the rest were Tanzanians, mainly from the Kuria community that neighbours Serengeti National Park. He said that poaching was prevalent mostly around Mara Bridge, where the poachers can spend up to three days drying meat, before escaping into Tanzania.

 Poaching is being driven by the high demand for game meat in Tanzania, where a hippo carcass sells for Tsh30,000 ($30) while that of a zebra fetches Tsh15,000 ($15). 

Johnny Baxendale, senior wildlife and tourism officer at the Mara Conservancy, blames poaching on laxity among security personnel along the two countries' common border. "I keep telling the authorities in Serengeti that our animals are theirs too and so there should be co-ordination on anti-poaching operations. We also need to harmonise the laws on poaching within East Africa to deter poachers from using any state that has lenient laws on poaching," he said.

 With the change of lifestyle among the Maasai community has come the mushrooming of unplanned trading centres inside the group ranches that occupy the wildlife area. Although a few of the centres have been approved by the Narok and Trans Mara county councils, their growth poses a health risk as they lack proper sanitary and waste management systems. 

Mr Pareyo urges the councils and the group ranches to come up with proper plans for the approved centres, saying haphazard construction will limit future development for the designated trading centres. 

However, Narok County Clerk Stanislas Ondimu says the council had no control over private land where the mushrooming of shops and shanties is taking place. 

According to Duncan Totona, a project officer with the Friends of Conservation, unplanned trading centres militate against the serenity expected in a product of international tourism standard. "My fear is that as the trading centres expand it will result in a high demand for settlement, leading to slums and degradation of the wildlife sanctuary," he said. 

During a meeting in Nairobi to launch the National Tourism Code for Kenya in September last year, lodge and camp owners expressed concern over the centres, saying they could become hideouts for criminals. The trading centres mostly offer accommodation to tour guides and drivers. 

The tourism code emphasises the need for tour drivers to stop trailing animals off the roads in the park as this degraded the grassland and scared the animals. The code spells out that tourists should report to the authorities any tour guides who fail to comply with the code of ethics. 

The code notwithstanding, though, the subdivision of group ranches continues and it is up to the Maasai community to chose which way to go. 

In areas where land demarcation has been completed, such as Aitong, Oloolaimutia and Olkoroi in Siana ranch, the Maasai have abandoned pastoralism and embraced wheat farming. 

Only a small section of the Purko Maasai – who inhabit the land between the Loita plains and Mau Forest – still practise a nomadic lifestyle. 

The demand for construction material and woodfuel has also led to deforestation, while fencing off the demarcated plots has not only reduced grazing land but limited wildlife movement through the once well-elaborated corridors to Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. 

The changed lifestyle, has affected some of the wildlife sensitive to human settlement such as the lion, rhino and elephant, which react by retreating deeper into the game reserve or migrating to Serengeti in Tanzania. 

A study done by the International Livestock Research Institute in November 2002 on 38 animal species, seeking to find out the effect of increased competition in the Maasai Mara, attributed the reduction in animal population to increased human density and settlement in the reserve. 

Dr Joseph Ogutu, an ILRI researcher, who has been studying the Maasai Mara situation since 1990, says that the subdivision of the ranches had triggered unbalanced competition in the reserve. 

"We found that if one group ranch is subdivided, you lose 30 per cent of the wildebeest," said Dr Ogutu. His study also found that the population of the giraffe, eland, waterbuck and wildebeest has dropped considerably. 

Along with the decline in animal population, wrangling among the ranching groups has prompted the Mara Conservancy – which manages the Mara Triangle on behalf of the Trans Mara County Council – to stop remitting the 19 per cent of the revenue earned from tourism to the three community ranches of Kimintet, Kerinkabi and Olorien from March 19. 

The Mara Triangle covers 690 sq km while the Maasai Mara National Reserve – under the Narok County Council – occupies the remaining 840 sq km.

 Mr Baxendale says there is a misunderstanding over who should receive the money on behalf of the community ranches. "But it is not our business what happens with the money, so long as we give it out," he adds. 

However, Mr Baxendale says that those who have abandoned pastoralism to embark on farming should not ask to share the revenue collection from the game viewing fee with the rest of the community.

 The EastAfrican has learnt that the row over the share of revenue in both the Mara Triangle and the Maasai Mara Game Reserve revolved around how much the beneficiaries were receiving, with some claiming that they were being denied their fair share. 

But Narok County Council treasurer David Muntet contested this, saying that the eight ranches directly receive Ksh45 million ($577,000) every year from the council's annual revenue generated from tourism cess. 

However, Mr Ondimu refused to say how much the council generated from tourism, only saying, "We spend Ksh60 million ($769,000) per year on paying teachers. But our annual budget does not exceed Ksh350 million ($4.48 million) from all collections. The council retains 81 per cent of the revenue.

 Mr Pareyo says that some people who want to corner the revenue collection are fuelling the differences among the ranch members by promising them better management of their share from the Narok and Trans Mara county councils. 

Mr Pareyo also says that the hope of wildlife conservation in the Mara lies with the youth. 

While admitting that individual land ownership might erode conservation efforts – he is optimistic that the community will rejuvenate the concept through engaging the youth in school activities that reflect wildlife conservation. 

"Our aim is to enable the community to understand that conservation cannot be a lifelong undertaking without taking the youth on board," says Mr Pareyo. 

Students and teachers at Siana Primary School, for instance, have set up a museum where they have preserved skulls from various wild animals.



Maasai Market 

– a Contemporary Exploitation of an Indigenous People’s Culture

By Michael Ole Tiampati
January 20, 2004

Across East Africa, the Maasai market in Kenya’s capital Nairobi (Maasai for the stream of cold
waters) is a household name. The market is made up of an array of African artifacts and it forms a regional convergence zone for different peoples and tourists. Every Tuesday, the market is buzzing with activity; the milling crowd growing bigger with each passing minute. Taxi drivers cash in on the many tourists who throng the market in search of “authentic” African souvenirs to take back home.

People from various African cultural backgrounds in the region, joined by those who have already lost their cultural identity, referred to in Maasai as Ilashumpa Orook (black Europeans), frequent the market, making it a boiling point of business activity revolving around cultural artifacts.

It is curious that the market is commonly called “Maasai market,” because Kenya is a conglomeration of more than 45 distinct communities. Many lines of argument abound as to the reason the market was named after the Maasai, one of the most well known and culturally resilient communities in the East Africa region.

Since the colonialists set foot in this region, Maasai pastoralists have resisted the temptations offered by the west and have retained most, if not all, of the customs of their tribal mores. This has often been used not only to give East African states a much needed cultural identity, but also to market the region as a tourist destination due to the conservation efforts of these pastoralists, which have kept
their lands teeming with huge herds of game and various plant species.

As such, according to one school of thought, the Maasai name has become a by word for culture and tourism, and now members of the community feel they have been used as a familiar background.

“When tourists come to Kenya and happen not to see a Maasai, it is said that they feel they haven’t quite experienced the Kenyan wild,” says 70-year-old Kiminta Ole Seki. Ole Seki is a resident of Kitengela, which was in the news last year when the Maasai residents there killed marauding lions (from the Nairobi National Park) preying on their livestock.

Stan Sullivan, a tourist from Canada, echoes the Maasai elder’s perception. “Back home, virtually every travel agency targeting Eastern Africa has to have a photograph of a Maasai looking at nature or doing one thing or the other, and the thought of meeting these people face to face is in itself quite a marketing strategy,” he says.

The Maasai market, which today has almost nothing to do with the Maasai, has a trader population of more than 400 on any given Tuesday, but there are usually only 10 Maasai traders. Beadworks resembling theirs, though not quite genuine, overwhelm the market. Undeniably, invoking these pastoral people’s name has paid off, earning a bounty to some individuals, companies, and the tourism industry while exposing the Maasai and their close cousins the Samburu (Isampurr) to commercial exploitation.

This has often earned a ricochet from the Maasai women at the market. “We are a proud and unique people. We do not prey on other peoples things as we hate being parasitic; but unfortunately we have become a perennial target right from the colonial days and today [other communities] use our name to promote business,” laments 38-year-old Mashipei Sakau, a beadwork trader at the market.

She adds in the characteristic worked up Maasai style, “Look around you, all these masqueraders purporting to sell our beadworks cannot utter three words in Maasai, know nothing about the cultural
significance of the various colors and patterns, and yet we claim to have a system in place to check some of these inequalities and parasitic robbery!”

Musau Makau, a wood carver from the Kamba community neighboring the Maasai to the east, admits that there exists a glaring injustice in exploitation of certain Kenyan communities to market the country. “To be honest,” he says, “if fame and riches were compatible in Africa, then the Maasai would be extremely rich. They would be the Hollywood class of the region because they have been used in every commercial manner right from the day the white man first stepped here. Therefore, they need government protection form further exploitation and erosion of their cultures and property.”

Makau thinks the name of the market is the result of an effort in the early 90’s by Minister for local authorities, William Ole Ntimama, to allow his people to gain from their indigenous knowledge and cultural arts and crafts by creating a market principally for their traditional products. The theory is shared across Maasai country that the establishment of this place was an effort by this pro-Maasai rights politician to invite the Maasai to identify with a project that they could take over as a means of
creating markets and job opportunities to the women and daughters of this community, as beadwork is culturally a preserve of the womenfolk.

As much as the idea was meant to benefit Maasai women, no sooner had the market started near Nairobi’s central business district than it was “hijacked” by outsiders on the pretext that they as well had cultural artifacts to sell and would complement the Maasai and enhance diversity.

“But all they did was copy our art and craft and embark on a vicious competition with the rightful owners of the products. They have fabricated stories regarding us in order to convince the tourist clientele and it should not be allowed to thrive in a modern state,” says Margaret Saitoti one of the pioneer traders at the Maasai market.

One would be justified to ask why the Maasai did not protest the “invasion,” but Mopel Karatina, a university graduate whose tuition was paid through sales of Maasai jewelry at the market, says that the prevailing politics of numbers in Kenya is to blame.

“The Maasai in Kenya constitute only about 400,000 people, and this is negligible compared to other communities. This could possibly be the reason used to allow outsiders into the market in order for the powers-that-be to please the majority dominant communities,” says Mopel.

Today, with the saddest outlook, the overwhelmed Maasai glance around and witness the savage
trend contagiously spreading and entrenching itself to the very core of what was meant to benefit their people. Mopel feels this is unjustifiable in a state that proclaims the principle of equal opportunities.

“It amounts to lack of commitment by the state in its duty to protect all Kenyans against exploitation both locally and internationally,” he says. This well educated pastoralist wonders why the government does not patent these artifacts and cultures. “After all,” he reasons, “one of the core responsibilities
of a government is to protect its citizens against any form of exploitation.”

Mopel fears that by not moving fast to apply intellectual property rights, the government is squandering the Maasai people’s apparent riches of artistic talent and culture. He warns that failure to do so may have far reaching social and political ramifications in the future, as it might be detrimental to the whole Kenyan community.

Traditional traders at this market point another accusing finger at the media saying it has failed the Maasai because media houses have been guilty of biases.

Joshua Lemunka, a Maasai from Tanzania, accuses the media of immoral injustice through its failure to highlight this glaring abuse. He argues that, in stark contrast to the role of the media, its silence has instead exposed the Maasai, who should have gained by the sheer use of their name to further marginalization. “The media gives the Maasai very little coverage, if any, or simply coverage that is laden with negative innuendos, thus failing in its cardinal duty of exposing insidious exploitation which is a violation of their rights, while on the other hand, it has been influential in dismantling the former regime and bringing in a new one,” laments Joshua.

This brings into focus the issue of intellectual property rights and the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights as stipulated in the International Labor Organization Convention 169 article 4.1. This convention states in part that special measures shall be adopted as appropriate for safeguarding the institutions, property, labor, cultures, and environments of the peoples concerned.

Unfortunately, Kenya has yet to ratify this convention and there exists glaring inequalities as the existing policies were adopted from those of the colonial era, which were principally lopsided and sought to marginalize certain communities while favoring others. This is a stark contradiction of the Narc government’s commitment in creation of wealth and involvement of local communities in tourism.

Historically, the Maasai are on record as the first Kenyan indigenous people ever to sue the British government in 1913 for abrogation of a treaty they had entered, and the colonial attitude towards them was unfriendly ever since. But it serves as a pointer to the Maasai people’s belief in fair play and justice.

The Maasai market issue serves as an example of the unabashed exploitation of indigenous peoples by the same state that is charged with the mandate to protect them.


See also:

Maasai Wildlife Conservation and Human Need                                                                         - The Myth of "Community Based Wildlife Management" by Navaya ole Ndaskoi, Co-ordinator, Indigenous Rights for Survival International

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