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

Chapter 2
The Struggle Begins, The Struggle Continues....

NOTES   The Mau is the largest block of forests in Kenya and is currently threatened with encroachment by people who want to construct settlement there. The forests form a large expanse that touches the districts of Kericho, Nakuru, Narok, Transmara and Bomet. This is the only forest where the Ogiek live in.

Archival information shows that the Ogiek land was first targeted in 1903 by the British colonial government. It was during the years 1903 to 1918 that the Ogiek were evicted from Mau Forest and taken to the more arid Narok districts.

22 Yeoman, G.H., 1993: "High Altitude Forest Conservation in Relation to Dorobo People" Kenya Past and Present, 4.  
Ogiek land came under government control in 1957.

In 1932, Mau East Forest was gazetted, which meant that nobody was allowed to live within the forest perimeter. The 1937/1938 Kenya Land (Carter) Commission tried to evict the Ogiek from the remaining forests and to concentrate them either on European farms as squatters and labourers or similarly in Forestry Department labour camps.22

In 1939 the Ogieks who were living in Olenguruone in Nakuru District were evicted and they were dispersed to different areas. Although in 1953 the Ogiek got their first chief, Kitango arap Teresit. By 1954 all the land in Mau Forest was gazetted and this meant that the Ogieks were by now landless people.

The 1957 Forest Act formally put the Ogiek land under the control of the government. This continued to the dawn of independence and the Ogiek then thought the new government would make a decision on their fate. In 1964, the Forest Act was revised but did not address the issue.

23 Quoted in Wandera Ojanji, "Community demands a voice in forest issues", Daily Nation, 29 June 2000.  

"The political, environmental, social and economic changes since then have made the Act irrelevant", says Dominic Walubengo, the director of Forest Action Network.23

Initially the Ogieks were to get a trust land as happened to many others but this was declared free land after the Ogieks refused to take up the land since it was not convenient to their cultural and economic set up.

Three years later Ogieks who were living on the Lake Nakuru settlement scheme were also evicted and in 1977 another group of Ogieks was evicted from Keringet Forest. The last group was evicted in 1980 from Nessuit and Marioshoni finalising the final eviction of the Ogiek from their lands. In 1988 all schools in Kiptunga, Baraget, Marioshoni, Kaprop and Dosua forest were closed down. All the houses in Mau East forest were torched by forest guards and Administration police following a government directive.

The fate of the Ogiek remained unknown until 1989 when the then Nakuru District Commissioner, Jonah Anguka announced that the Ogieks would be settled in Ndoinet forest. Disturbed by the continued loss of their ancestral land the Ogiek clan elders in 1990 visited the then Rift Valley Provincial Commissioner, Yusuf Haji, and presented a memorandum of complaints over their ancestral land. A year later, Haji announced that the government had agreed to settle the Ogieks in their ancestral land.

In June 1992, the then Nakuru DC, Ishmael Chelang'a, ordered all schools in the forest to be opened and in August, the same year, Chelang'a led a group of Ogiek elders to State House, Nakuru where they presented a memorandum to President Daniel arap Moi. This was first time that the Ogieks had a direct chance to speak to the president and they left State House thinking that the matter of their ancestral land had been settled. The thought on many people was that this could have been an election gimmick since the country was going through the election period.

The 1992 general elections saw multi-party democracy in Kenya and President Daniel arap Moi won the elections. The Ogieks had voted for the ruling party Kenya African National Union (KANU) hoping that this would in turn get them a favourable hearing from the government. After the elections the Ogiek got a representative in February 1993 at the local county council when Hezron Chemosi was appointed a nominated councillor.

As if that was not enough the government gazetted Marioshoni, Baraget and Nessuit locations in March 1993. This was the first official recognition that these were settlement areas and administration areas to be under a chief. And in November 1993 chiefs and sub-chiefs were appointed in the three locations.

The first warning that the Ogiek land was in danger came in February 1994 when the then Rift Valley Provincial Commissioner (PC), Ishmael Chelang'a, convened an Ogiek elders meeting at Nessuit Primary School. He advised them to arrange how they will share their ancestral land as outside forces were out to grab it. He promised them that he would press for their title deeds.

The reign of Chelang'a was perhaps the best for the Ogieks and in October 1994 he even released plot numbers where the Ogieks were to be settled as they awaited the official de-gazettment of the forest. That was the end of any form of promise to the Ogiek.

In February 1995 some suspect surveying of Ogiek land started in Nessuit and soon spread to other parts of the new locations. But it appears that by then the provincial administration was for the settlement of the Ogiek.

For on June 13, 1995 the then Nakuru DC, Aden Noor, held a public meeting at Nessuit and gave out forms which were to be used in applying for land in the Mauche Settlement Scheme. Noor informed the Ogieks that they would only get five-acres per household from their ancestral land. Nothing was said about the balance of land.

Mauche was short for Mau — Chepalungu.

The following day, a delegation of 59 Ogieks travelled to President Moi's upcountry home at Kabarak and expressed fear that their land would be taken away by grabbers if they were to be given five-acres only. And on June 16, 1995 the Ogiek's rejected Noor's proposal of five-acres. The Ogieks later explained the decision in a memorandum sent to members of parliament that read in part:

24 "Help us live in Our Ancestral Land and Retain Both Our Human and Cultural Identities as Kenyans of Ogiek Origin", a memorandum submitted to all Members of parliament by the Representatives of Kenyans of Ogiek Community living in Nessuit and Marioshoni Parts of the Mau Forest, dated July 15, 1996.  

"The settlement scheme which the Rift Valley provincial administration is administering assumes that the Ogiek are ready for a market economy land tenure. They are not...24

This rebuff on the authority was seen as a rejection of the land and it now appears that the said forms ended at the hands of other Rift Valley tribes.

It was in November 4, 1995 that one of the tribes, Kipsigis who had been transported to the Ogiek land and camped at Teret, dressed as Ogieks and went to President Moi's Kabarak home and asked to be settled too at the Ogiek land. On November 17, the same Kipsigis went to Gongongeri where Moi was opening the 42nd World Ploughing Competition and staged a demonstration demanding to get a share of the Ogiek land. The so-called Mauche settlement scheme was allocated to Kipsigis and Tugens.

"The formation of Mauche was tailored to steal parts of our ancestral land covering Sululu, Likia, Teret and Sigortik" says Joseph Maiyo Towett, the chairman of Ogiek Welfare Council.

25 "GSU Sent to Avert Possible Violence", Daily Nation, 17 November 1995.  

It can now be said that the Kipsigis who were camped at Teret brought new confusion at the forest. In November 16, 1995 a contingent of the paramilitary General Service Unit was sent to Teret forest to avert a possible clash between the Ogiek and new settlers who had invaded the forest.25 The elders were protesting that "foreigners" had been allocated land at the midst of the Ogiek habitats. This was one of the first recorded protests by the Ogiek on the continued loss of their land in Molo South.

"The officers asked us to leave this part of the forest but we asked him to call the Provincial Commissioner and the District Commissioner so that they can tell us where we expected to go", recalls one elder.

During that time the government was stopping the Ogiek from building any houses in the forest. At the same period bout 1,800 Ogieks who had in the year 1993/4 been evicted from Ndoinet Forest were living in squalor conditions. The government did not want them to put up any structures insisting that that was forest area.

As the tussle over what to do with the Ogieks continued some more Kipsigis from Bomet visited State House and masqueraded as Ogieks. They had an audience with President Moi and promised that they would keep peace. President Moi knew that the Ogiek were the true inhabitants of the forest. Records show that in 1967 when he was vice-president he opened Nessuit Primary School and at that time there were neither Tugens nor Kipsigis in the forest. The reason why he allowed the Kipsigis to get into the Ogiek land is still not clear.



26 "Police Disperse Marchers", East African Standard, 19 November 1995.


Actually this move infuriated the real Ogieks who on the morning of November 18 started to trek some 40 kilometres to go and have an audience with President Moi at State House Nakuru. The journey started at 1 am from Nessuit location, with men, women and children. Little did they know that police had been alerted about their match to Nakuru and they were all intercepted and whipped with batons.26

The attempt to have an audience with President Moi who was at State House, Nakuru waiting for a choir flopped and several Ogiek leaders were arrested.

27 Interview with Tiolu Baranot, an Ogiek elder who was injured during the stampede.  

"We wanted the President to know that the so-called Ogieks who had visited him were not genuine. They were actually Kipsigis carefully coached by [then] Cabinet minister, Kipkalya Kones and [former] Deputy State House Comptroller, Franklin Bett. We also wanted to tell the President about how the Ogieks are being frustrated all over Rift Valley Province"27

Although the Ogiek leaders were released without being charged this was an indicator that the Ogiek were in for a rough ride.

28 "Demo: Councillor Held", Daily Nation, 21 November 1995.   After the November 18, 1995 commotion the Ogiek elders called a press conference in Nakuru Town in which they accused the government of "resorting to intimidation in an attempt to muzzle and prevent us from articulating our land rights".28 The elders further claimed that the Nakuru Police boss, Peter Kavila had used violence on elderly women. Nine women were among those arrested that day.
29 "Demo: Councillor Held", Daily Nation, 21 November 1995.  

They further revealed that the new comers were transported to Nessuit and Marishoni forests in April 1994 "by a cabinet minister".29

Although Nessuit has one of the highest illiteracy rate in the country, the residents did not take anything for granted. When journalist Ngugi wa Mbugua visited Nessuit a day after the arrested elders were released he found an intimidated lot and wrote:

30 Ngugi wa Mbugua, "The Scramble for the Dorobo Country", Sunday Nation, 26 November 1995.


31 "PC dies in Air Disaster", East African Standard, 28 July 1996.


"Mr Somita and Sitienei were still too shaken to talk to us when we approached them a day after they were set free".30

The intimidation had officially begun...

Chelang'a, perhaps the only PC who at first sympathised with the Ogiek, never lived to help them, although there was little he could do with no support from the government. Chelang'a died when his helicopter was shot down by bandits in northern Kenya.31 MORE>>



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.