1. VISION, MISSION, GOAL
AND CORE VALUES
Ogiek Welfare Council envisages a just and equitable society where
all people enjoy basic human rights and live in dignity.
The mission of the Council
is to fight for the constitutional rights of the Ogiek people, to
promote their well-being and to preserve their environment,
culture and identity.
Improvement of the socio
economic well being of the Ogiek people.
- All persons and communities are created equal.
- All persons have the right to realize their full
- The Ogiek Welfare Council believes in the
integrity of creation.
- The Ogiek Welfare Council believes in the
recognition of indigenous peoples identity.
HISTORY OF THE OGIEK COMMUNITY
Ogiek people are the last remaining forest dwellers and the most
marginalized of all indigenous peoples and minorities in Kenya.
The Ogiek are traditionally hunters and gatherers of the
past, who survive mainly on wild fruits and roots, wild games
hunting and traditional bee keeping and are therefore friendly to
their environment on which they depend.
They were nicknamed “Dorobo”
a derogatory term given to them by their neighbours, the Maasai.
The correct term used by them is “Ogiek” which
literally means “the caretaker of all plants and wild animals”.
A British researcher Mr. Guy Yeoman in his article titled
“ High altitude forest conservation in relation to Dorobo people
described the Ogiek as follows: -
“ The Ogiek are uniquely specialized people intimately
related to a particular ecosystem.
They are incapable of retaining their essential
characteristics, if that ecosystem is destroyed.
In the beginning of the last century their ancestral lands
were taken from them in a manner little different from the seizure
of the Native American hunting grounds in today U.S.A, but with
the difference that no Ogiek Reserves were retained.
To this great injustice has been added the effects of the
forest policy that has progressively and on immense scale replace
their natural forests with conifer forests that are, to the Ogiek,
totally sterile and unproductive, useless for either bees or wild
and tragically, the employment offered by the forest department
makes them work for their own extinction.
Every hectare of plantation trees they plant is a hectare
of their birthright lost forever.
have a unique way of life well adapted to the forest.
Their adaptations and their traditions have made them to be
successful foresters and greatest environmentalists than any other
community in Kenya. The
survival of the indigenous Mau forest is inextricably linked with
the survival of the community.
Ogiek are believed to be the first people to have settled in
Eastern Africa and were found inhabiting all Kenyan forests before
1800 AD. Due to
domination, assimilation, the community is slowly becoming extinct
with the 1989 figures showing about 20,000 countrywide.
Ogiek have been living in Mau Forest since time immemorial in
communally held pieces of land, which were administered through
council of “Elders” according to clans and family units. It
was during the colonial administration that the customary land
tenure was partially destroyed when The Exotic tree plantations
were introduced weakening the direct control of the forest to
Ogiek. The Council of elders or “Poisionik” administers
and controlled the Ogiek destiny and helps in solving among other
things, disputes over land, which was community held.
Ogiek today in Mau number close to 10,000 (1998 figures).
They have been slowly transformed to cattle keepers and to
an extent, peasant farmers. Their linguistic facility enables them
to adopt their neighbour’s language and thus get “absorbed”
easily and become victims of assimilation by their neighbours.
Ogiek are also happy in situation of isolation in the forest where
birds, trees and wild animals provide them with “good
neighbourhood” that one may seek from becoming a member of
are self sufficient in forest products except for some few irons
to make into arrowhead spheres and knives.
Their skills and expertise lies on:
with their powerful bows and arrows.
in management and training of hunting dogs.
to recognize and identify both flora and fauna very quickly.
mapping skills and knowledge of the forest
eyesight with good tracking skills.
is commonly believed by the Ogiek and surrounding communities that
the Ogiek were the first people to settle in the East African
forests. Their great
affinity to forests has made them successful foresters and
environmentalists in the past.
They have considerable affinity with their environment.
Trees, birds and wild animals provide them with the psychological
comfort that other people attain by being members of larger
communities. For this
reason the Ogiek has always dwelled in areas where there are
forests adjacent to plains. During
the dry season they would live in the forests, moving out to the
plains during the rainy periods.
Ogiek community is believed to have occupied the coastal regions
of East Africa as early as 1000 AD.
They moved from these areas following attacks by slave
traders and other migrating communities.
This was the Ogiek first dispersal.
It saw one group moving to Tanzania where they settled
among the Hadzabe and Maasai tribes. This first group has been assimilated by the Maasai and now
speaks a dialect that is very close to Maasai.
A second group moved to the plains of Laikipia bordering Mt
Kenya forest from where they dispersed to various locations in
northern and central rift valley and western Kenya.
to their small numbers, the Ogiek have been an easy target for
those seeking land on which to farm or graze.
Further, they have not been able to speak up and be heard
for the same reasons. Every
one has ignored the fact that they too have a right to life.
When the British carved areas of Kenya into tribal reserves
to be occupied by various tribes, the Ogiek were excluded as they
lived in small, scattered groups over a large geographical area
and did not appear to have any property.
encroachment of Ogiek rights to their land can be said to have
started in 1856 when the Maasai attempted to annex Ogiek lands in
Mau and Laikipia. This led the two tribes to go to war. The Ogiek lost the areas around Lake Naivasha but continued
to retain the lands around Nakuru.
1903 the colonial administration started negotiations with the
Maasai over the transfer of land.
This culminated in an agreement, signed in 1911 between the
Maasai and the colonialists in which the Maasai handed over rights
to land in Nakuru, Naivasha and Laikipia for the settlement of
white farmers. Ironically
it appears to have been lost to the colonial authorities that the
land signed over by the Maasai was Ogiek land.
This effectively dispossessed the Ogiek of their ancestral
lands and was a victory to the Maasai who had failed to forcibly
take over these lands in the war of 1856.
In 1932 another agreement between the Maasai and the
colonial authorities gave out the Mau areas to the colonial
first forcible eviction of the Ogiek took place between 1911 and
1914 following the signing of the first pact between the colonial
authorities and the Maasai. Colonial soldiers were used to evict the Ogiek and their
animals from Mau to Narok. The
Maasai accepted the Ogiek in Narok on condition that the Ogiek
surrender their animals, language and culture.
This was agreed upon by the colonial District Commissioners
in Narok and Nakuru without consulting the Ogiek.
Once in Narok, most of the Ogiek refused to surrender their
animals and to adopt Maasai lifestyles.
They moved back to Mau Forest.
However, the majority of those Ogiek who had been moved
from the areas around Lake Naivasha opted to remain, and having
surrendered their animals, were assimilated and lived as slaves.
To date, these are the poorest of the Ogiek.
second eviction took place in 1918.
Once again African soldiers in the employ of the colonial
authorities were used to forcibly evict the Ogiek from the Eastern
Mau to Olpusi-Moru in Narok.
Once again the Ogiek refused to surrender their animals and
found their way back into Mau forest.
evictions of the Ogiek from their ancestral lands were executed by
the British colonial administrators in 1926 and 1927.
In these evictions, those Ogiek who had remained on lands
that had been converted to settler farms were forced into the
these forests had been declared Crown Lands.
The Forestry department was therefore unwilling to allow
the Ogiek into the forests and further evictions took place.
the agreement of September 1932, the Ogiek were invited to testify
before the Carter Land Commission.
Ogiek elders appeared before the Hon Harris Carter on 17th
October 1932. The
elders presented the Ogiek’s stand, which was that the Ogiek
would not move out of the forests.
report of the Carter Commission recommended that the Ogiek should
be moved to reserves of the bigger tribes with whom they have an
affinity. These were
the Maasai and the Kalenjin.
These recommendations were drawn from those of a committee
made up of white settlers and colonial administrators who had
expressed fears that should the Ogiek be left in the forests,
their population would increase leading them to claim their land
which was now under the white settlers.
They saw the dispersal of the Ogiek to various different
locations as a means of having them assimilated by bigger tribes
hence reducing the possibility of claims to their ancestral lands.
In 1933 the then Provincial Commissioner recommended to the
Chief Native Commissioner “Whenever possible the Dorobos
should become members of and absorbed into the tribe with which
they have most affinity.”
the recommendations of the Carter Commission, harassment and
disinheritance of the Ogiek continued:
available from the National archives show that the colonial
administration planned to conduct a program of evictions
commencing 23rd August 1937 and ending on 17th
January 1939. The
plan was to hunt the Ogiek in Tinet (Mau West) and relocate them
to Chepalangu in Kericho (Kipsigis tribal reserve area).
This programme was unsuccessful due to resistance by the
Ogiek. Another program of eviction and relocation was planned to
take place from 1939 to 1941.
This last program was partially successful but most of the
people relocated moved back to the West Mau forest after a few
1941 evictions were conducted in East Mau forest with the Ogiek
being relocated to Olenguruani settlement scheme, which had been
carved out of Narok district (Maasai tribal reserve area).
POST INDIPENDENCE ERA
of Ogiek lands by fellow Africans started in 1958 when identity
cards were issued to Africans for the second time.
Some members of the Kalenjin tribe registered themselves as
Ogiek in the hope that this would grant them a stake in the Ogiek
claims to their ancestral lands.
the first 15 years of independence the Kenya government did not
interfere with the Ogiek. Independent
Kenya’s government first started harassment of the Ogiek in
1977. In this year
government forces, led by the Rift Valley Provincial Commissioner
invaded Mau West forest. They
torched the houses occupied by the Ogiek, confiscated and arrested
members of the community who were then arraigned before the court
on charges of being illegal squatters in the forest.
This rendered many families destitute due to loss of
animals and property; parents who had children in school were
unable to pay school fees forcing the children to drop out. During
this period most Ogiek lived in abject poverty and could not speak
a decade of President Moi in office, the Government banned the
keeping of livestock and carrying out of farming activities in
forests. This ban was
applied selectively and targeted only the Ogiek and other
non-Kalenjin communities. Following
this ban, all schools in Eastern Mau were closed in 1989.
This affected 500 Ogiek school children that had no
alternative schools to go to. This alone has raised illiteracy
level from the previous estimates of 78% to a record 91%, which is
believed to be highest in the Country. Today Ogiek are the worst
hit by illiteracy level coupled with ignorance and poverty as
result of very poor economic base that cannot support better
living standards. More than 80% of the Ogiek live in abject
poverty. Ironically, during the same period the government
initiated a settlement scheme in Ndoinet, Mau West.
Members of the Kipsigis community were settled alongside
the Ogiek. The Ogiek
refused to participate in this scheme. This explains why Kipsigis
community benefited much on Land redistribution in South-Western
Mau to the advantage of the minority Ogiek why by then are
dominated in all spheres of influence.
from 1993, the Kenya Government has systematically carved out huge
parts of Mau forest for settlement of people from other
communities who perceived to be politically correct from the
larger Kalenjin community, with approval from the state.
This has caused constant conflict between the Ogiek who see
the destruction of their forests and the alienation of their lands
as a continued threat to their existence.
Ogiek have not been passive to these negative developments.
Through their elders, the people have made strenuous
efforts to defend their rights.
In 1996, the community engaged an advocate to assist them
in pursuing their rights through legal channels.
As a first step, a memorandum was prepared and circulated
to all Members of Parliament in Nov. 1996. Dissatisfied with how
parliament handled the Ogiek land question, the Ogiek filed a
constitutional land suit in June 1997.
This case is still pending in the High Court. The community
continues to seek justice through other legal suits as well as by
lobbying. During this period harassment of Ogiek leaders involved
with the suit intensified with the number of arbitrary arrests
rising to a record 64 in 1 weeks. This has been the hardest and
the most terrifying periods in the History of the Ogiek struggles,
which has been, coupled with massive arrests, demonstrations as a
means of securing basic human rights. The period has also been
characterized by historic constitutional, political and legal
reforms in a poor and depressed Ogiek economy.
theft of Ogiek land, coupled with the destruction of their
property and forcible eviction has left the Ogiek seriously
impoverished with an uncertain future. Their very survival as a people is seriously threatened by
their disenfranchisement, loss of their natural habitat,
assimilation by bigger tribes and abject poverty.
on 16th February, 2001, the government went ahead and
issued a gazette notice with intention to alter boundaries of
it’s forests in Kenya and also legalize the disputed areas, The
Ogiek found themselves in a dilemma and had to raise an objection
and also move to the court to seek an injunction and possibly
quash the gazette notice.
current problems facing the Ogiek and Mau forest in general is as
a result of socio-economic, cultural, environmental and political
changes that took place in both pre-colonial and post-colonial
wide dispersal of the Ogiek has split them into small defenceless
groups prone to attack by other stronger close-knit tribes. With
the Ogiek spread throughout the forests in rift valley forests and
some parts of Mt. Elgon in western Province, the Ogiek are easy
target of assimilation as a result of long domination by the
neighbouring communities who always take advantage of community
ignorance and small number. Again the population matters a lot in
Kenyan politics with which the power of Numbers is highly
considered while the minority would not be heard, as it is even
very difficult for them to have an elected leader of their own. In
today Kenya, Ogiek have never had any elected leader beyond a ward
councillor who merely represents some few villages. The same tend
also can be seen in Public Service Commission a Government
Department in charge of Recruiting Civil service which all along
has been characterised by corruption and tribalism. This again saw
the Ogiek being marginalized and not given an opportunity to serve
the Government of the Republic of Kenya despite not being exempted
from paying taxes. It is sad to conclude that the Highest Civil
service position an Ogiek has ever held is that of a position of a
Location Chief who also happens to be an administrator of several
villages. Non-has ever served as recognised officer in the
Government. New settlers who happen to settle in Ogiek territories
take this as an advantage as they will always use their kin
working in the Government in influencing and advancing their
wishes against those of the fellow Ogiek who even in their own
territory has got no future. This pose a serious threat to Ogiek
existence who has always been seen as stumbling bloc to new
development in Mau forest. This “developments” includes
clearing of forests and settlement. This idea has caused constant
conflict between these settlers and the Ogiek who see the
destruction of the forests and the alienation of their lands as a
continued threat to their existence.
of land for either hunting or Beekeeping, destruction of tree
species that either supports bee farming or trees that harbours
bee hives by incoming communities has all combined to destroy
already Ogiek impoverished economy. About 10% of the Ogiek still
leads traditional way of life while the rest are peasant farmers
and to some extent livestock keepers. This sudden shift is as a
result of Socio-economic and Political changes of 19th
of strong and visionary leaders in all spheres of influence have
further worsen the situation by making the Ogiek appear as a herd
without herdsman and therefore becomes the victims of
discrimination and marginalization. During the last 2 decades,
Ogiek were and still are being regarded as 2nd class
citizen by fellow Africans.
significant threats to Mau forest and its inhabitants include:
Massive influx of people seeking land for settlement.
Uncontrolled occupation as a result of irregular and
Massive Degradation and destruction of environment as a
result of (2) above
Drying up of major rivers as a result of (3) above.
Disappearing of tree and animal species as a result of
increased human activities.
Domination of Ogiek by in-coming communities, which might
result to Assimilation, and finally Extinction of Ogiek Community
Erosion of Ogiek cultural values and indigenous knowledge
resulting from (6) above.
the above combined threats, coupled with current socio-economic
and political complexities and above all, looming poverty have
further worsen the Ogiek position and in the next 5 years to come,
the Ogiek status as a community on its own is at risk.
THE OGIEK WELFARE COUNCIL
by both the colonial and the independence government to recognize
the rights of the Ogiek people leaves the very existence of the
Ogiek as a people, seriously threatened. Over the years, physical
evictions have led to the loss of life and property.
Destruction of their environment/habitat has led to
deficits in the Ogiek people’s traditional sources of food and
there have been systematic attempts to assimilate the people in
order to obliterate their ethnic identity.
The Ogiek language is fast disappearing, while cultural
practices and values are almost forgotten. Recognising these
threats, the people of Mau East through their Council of Elders
have over the years lobbied both the colonial and independent
Kenya governments for the restoration of their rights as a people.
The earliest record of this being their representations to
the Kenya Land Commission (Carter) in 1932.
Despite the Elders’ efforts, not much has been achieved.
Both the government and other communities continue to
trample upon the rights of the Ogiek.
the failure to have Ogiek grievances addressed, the Ogiek Council
of Elders, a traditional Institution mandated to lead and make
decision on behalf of the Ogiek Community transformed itself to
Ogiek Welfare Management Committee (OWMC), which was comprised of
representatives of the various Ogiek clans in Mau East. However it
had the following tasks: -
To educate the Ogiek on their rights.
To highlight the plight of the Ogiek people through the
To continue to lobby with the provincial administration and
other people in authority for the restoration of the Ogiek lands.
1997, the need was felt for the Committee to take on wider issues.
Consequently, a change of name was recommended, and the
name Ogiek Welfare Council (OWC) came into being.
OWC has been actively involved in the articulation of the plight
of the Ogiek and their struggle for basic human rights. OWC
ability to institute action against injustices to the community
has been greatly enhanced by the support received from a number of
partner organisations including Ford Foundation, ICCO, Rainforest
Foundation, IUCN, IWGIA, FPP, Cottonwood Foundation and others.
Already various committees of elders have been formed to address
the different issues affecting the community.
Capacity building of the Council’s finance function is
being conducted and already basic accounting records as well as
bank accounts are in place with trained personnel.
The issue of long-term self-sustainability is being
addressed and various ideas from the elders are being pursued.
Rehabilitation of the community’s habitat is being
undertaken through the creation of indigenous tree nurseries.
This is expected to accelerate with the onset of the rainy
development of this paper represents another milestone in the
strengthening and positioning of the Council for improved
performance. It is
also a means of communicating with our friends and supporters all
over the world.
Constitution and Legal Systems
Council is governed by a constitution, which has been developed
with the assistance of lawyers.
Attempts by the Council to obtain registration in order to
gain legal status are yet to succeed, as the Government appears
reluctant to grant the Council recognition. OWC has operated
without full registration for over 2 years now. OWC tendered its
registration for application as Society in mid 2000, under
Societies Act. OWC therefore is a society holder No. SOC/39744
pending approval and issuance of Certificate by the Registrar
General of Societies. However, OWC has developed a working
partnership under Umbrella of Registered Trust, Kenya Land
Alliance (KLA) which has been very close to OWC since its
formation. The Government stand is expected to ease with change of
Power and also when the new constitution shall come into being.
The New constitution is expected to be complete by June 2003.
has a number of staff manning different programs and daily
activities of OWC. OWC national secretariat is headed by the
National coordinator on behalf of the Board and assisted by the
coordinator. Other staff includes 2 Program officers, Accounts
Assistant and an Administrative Assistant. The team is further
strengthened by 5 field officers who on daily basis get in
constant touch with the community in different programs going on
in 3 regions. The presence of Gender Representative proves that
OWC recognises the role of women in a society. In addition to the
above OWC has 8 Teachers who assist in teaching Ogiek languages in
8 selected schools within Mau Forest Complex.
and Sectoral Coverage
OWC is a body created by the Ogiek in Eastern Mau forest to
address their specific problems, the elders have realized that
these problems are common to all the Ogiek communities.
The elders also recognize that there is strength in unity.
Indeed, that is the Council’s motto – “Ketuiyechin
potan kellog”. In this connection, the OWC has made tremendous achievements
in trying to bring together and unite Ogiek community countrywide
so as to face a common front.
OWC now has representation in Board and also in staff
distribution in almost all regions inhabited by the Ogiek
programs are directly related to the problems facing the Ogiek.
Disenfranchisement and denial of constitutional and basic
Economic and social deprivation.
Wanton destruction of the community’s natural habitat,
resources, culture and traditions.
hopes that its programmes will be of benefit to all the 20,000 or
so people in the Ogiek diaspora.
House, 1st Floor,
off Kenyatta Avenue,
P. O. Box
12069, Tel. +254 (0) 37 212736,