The Ogiek
An in-depth report by John Kamau, Rights Features Service

Appendix Part 1
The Ogiek Community Submission before the Njonjo Land Commission, 2000


111 This Commission was appointed to propose the way forward on land issues in Kenya.

112 The submission has been edited for brevity and clarity otherwise, we have maintained the actual submission in the appendix.


Here below we publish the entire submission of the Ogiek testimony before the Njonjo land Commission dated 29th February 2000.112


Dear Sir,

Sir, we humbly write to your Commission with a view of being invited to testify on the Ogiek land question.

We, in the welfare an umbrella organisation committed to representation, protection of and advocacy for the Ogiek rights and interests whenever they are and may exist would like to make the following submissions on the plight of the Ogiek as far as their land dispute is concerned.

a) That the traditional African/Kenyan societies — cum-tribes did recognise the Ogiek existence and their land rights and this is supported by their rights, legends and histories where they acknowledge the Ogiek having given them land and their hospitality

b) The colonial government also recognised (sic) this right and that is why the Ogiek were invited to testify on their land question during the Horis Carter Commission of 1932 (17 October 1932, Molo) and also the dog slaughtering agreement of 23 September 1932.

c) The various schemes which were being tried to be initiated by the colonial administration, were also part of the recognition of their rights…only the implementation part which failed as it was not agreed upon due to vested interests, hence political interference which bred mistrust and suspicion.

d) The Independence Kenya government also recognises this rights (of our existence as a community) and that is why they tried to solve our land problems through schemes formula such as

(i) Lake Nakuru Settlement Scheme 1969-1970
(ii) Ndoinet Settlement Scheme 1988
(iii) Sirikwa Settlement Scheme 1993
(iv) Mauche Settlement Scheme 1991

e) The Lord Almighty in his Infinite perceived the need of creating the Ogiek as a tribe, gave them land to call their home and gave them knowledge to protect themselves from assimilation and any other man made calamities resulting to either external or internal factors that might lead them to the decaying of their culture, language as well as identity and thus sealing their fate to extinction.

In all these schemes, both by the Colonial and independent government, there has been poor implementation plus some vested interests by the concerned authorities. It is this vested interest that finally causes poor implementation or no implementation at all.

So in all these we can't say that the Government has totally neglected us, no, we blame the whole mess to those who are charged with the implementation of the whole programme.

These implementers are mostly the middlemen between the Ogiek and the government. They are the very same people who bargain justice to their benefit and that of their friends.

They are the people who decide what share the Ogiek should get and how to achieve this target. Our experience has shown that a vulnerable community like ours cannot achieve its dreams under their land.

Our history, has shown that we are environmentally friendly. Our land tenure system is also environmentally friendly. Our history is summarised in our memorandum of July 15, 1996, which we presented to members of parliament asking to help us live in our ancestral land and retain both our human and cultural identities as Kenyans of Ogiek origin.

We the Ogiek likes living in isolation where flora and fauna provides with psychological comfort. Any invasion to this private live is thus threatening the Ogiek existence and survival and to protect this interest, the Ogiek have tried all they can to protect this interest which is a right. They have done it in various ways such as

a) Demonstrations
b) Writing protest notes and letters to the concerned authorities
c) Through public meetings (baraza)
d) Memorandum to Parliament, various commissions and concerned authorities
e) Corridors and avenues for Justice in the Courts of Law where the following cases exist:

I. Mau East — HCCA No 635/97 — Challenging the Mauche scheme and seeking nullification

II. South West Mau — HCCA No 238/99 — Challenging eviction (descriptive)

III. Songoo Case (Narok) — Challenging the grabbing of their ancestral land by a senior government official, i.e. Mr Isaiah Cheluget

There are other issues are on the following:

  • Nandi Ogiek — they have no case in court. A scheme, which was also initiated by the government, was also hijacked and later became stalled. At present they are living in isolation in the forest with very little or no interaction to the outside world.

113 In 1991 to 1994 tribal clashes occurred in the Rift Valley in a bid to evict the populous Kikuyus from the area. The Ogiek believe they have been targeted for refusing to host the Kalenjin groups that sparked the clashes.
  • Enosubukia — Their ancestral land was rocked by tribal clashes.113 It was later declared a water catchment area and the residents displaced. Today these people are still internally displaced.

  • Narok (Kaplelach and Kapsobulek) — The Ogiek here have become victims of the Maasai. Their land is constantly grabbed by the Maasai, and their women taken away. e.g. Kimisoi Usasai's land was grabbed and subdivided into several plot no. 1233, 424, 422, 1132, 347, and 445 under Olpusimoru Adjudication/Registration section map sheet no. 28 and 25.

NB: All the Ogiek wherever they exist have one common problem, which is disinheritance of their ancestral land, marginalisation and poor or no representation in the existing governments.

Possible Solutions

  • The Ogiek need at least a trust land of their own where they can assert their customary rights and also can exercise their interests. A few trusted elders should be made to undergo oathing and be allowed to implement the settlement programme without the involvement of the middlemen who turn out to be justice "bargainers". In this way justice will be seen to be done.

  • Special representation in the government and special nomination should be given in parliament. In this way the Ogiek problems would be aired to the relevant authorities at the right time and manner without the involvement of these middlemen.

  • Special seating or nominations in the current commissions and future commissions and various task forces. This will help us protect and preserve our interests.

  • Ogiek need at least a division or a district of their own.

We ask the Commission to visit the Ogiek at the location and village level and see for themselves that the Ogiek have no Reserve land of their own which can be called a Trust Land (under the laws of Kenya). They are victims of being hosted by other communities who are out to deprive them any opportunity available with the intention of assimilating them into their tribes as a clan.

Our fear

Although the Ogiek are numerically small minority who constitute no political threat; they have been subject to negative stereotypes, from denial of rights to segregation. They have also been victims of much mistrust, suspicion, conflict, competition and rivalry between Kenyan communities jockeying for power and control over resources.

This leaves the Ogiek being no different from the Twa of Rwanda and Burundi who are victims of both Hutu and Tutsi governments and also the Ogoni of Nigeria.

It is because of these issues that we call the commission to give the Ogiek plight critical assessment. It is our esteemed hope that the land commission will hear from all these groups and implement their solutions.

For Ogiek Welfare Council
Joseph K. Towett
Council Executive Chairperson




Ch. 1: Ogiek: History of a Forgotten Tribe
Ch. 2:
The Struggle Begins, The Struggle Continues
Ch. 3:
The Closed Society

Ch. 4:
Wanton Destruction
Ch. 5:
Promises and More Promises
Ch. 6:
Threats and Lies
Ch. 7
: The Court Battle
Ch. 8:
The Aftermath

Pt. 1:
The Ogiek Community Submission before the Njonjo Land Commission
Pt. 2: Epilogue
Pt. 3: Conclusions
Pt. 4: Recommendations

Annex 1: Declarations on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities
Annex 2
: The African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights
Annex 3:
Legal Instruments that Govern Land in Kenya

The Ogiek: The Ongoing Destruction of a Minority Tribe in Kenya Copyright © 2000 Rights News and Features Service. Citations on this document may be made freely but copyright is vested in Rights News and Features Service. Unless otherwise stated all the views expressed here are those of the authors and are endorsed by Rights News and Features Service, which is responsible for the content in this publication. First published in Nairobi by Rights News and Features Service, First Floor, College House, University Way, P.O. Box 63828, Nairobi, Kenya. Phone: +(254-2) 311724. E-mail: Copies of the report may be ordered from Rights News and Features Service.