Effect the African Court ruling, Ogiek Community tells government

Ogiek community members from Uasin Gishu and Nandi counties, led by their secretary Joseph Kaila (far right), performing a traditional dance at Burnt Forest, Uasin Gishu County. PHOTO/Edmond Kipngeno, The Scholar Media Africa.

It was a historical moment after the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, based in Arusha, Tanzania, ruled that the Kenyan government had violated the rights of the indigenous Ogiek community by evicting them from their ancestral land in Mau forest.

This was in May 2017, but things are contrary as the community continues to face challenges, among them the eroded culture due to the evictions.

The government continues to turn a blind eye to their cries by failing to implement the court decision.

Since time immemorial, the Ogiek have lived in the Mau forest, in the forested areas along Mt. Elgon, solely relying on the forest for food, shelter and identity.

Members of the Ogiek community living in Uasin Gishu and Nandi counties want the government to heed the court ruling granting them rights to occupy their ancestral land.

It is now five years down the line since the court ruled that the Ogiek community be allowed by the government to return to the forest.

They have been through hard times, citing that getting a place to stay and do their normal activities has proved futile.

According to the Uasin Gishu Ogiek Community Secretary, Joseph Kaila, who talked to The Scholar Media Africa, the community has passed through hard times in their quest for their land rights since the court ruled in their favor. Still, the government has failed to honor it.

“It is long since the Arusha court ruled in favor of the Ogiek community; five years is too long and we are asking the government to act swiftly in implementing the court ruling,” said Kaila.

According to Kaila, the indigenous community conserved the forest as opposed to the notion by the government that they were destroying it.

Mau forest, Serengonik, and Kipkurere are among the areas the Ogiek community had occupied before being flushed out by the government through the Kenya Forest Services and the Ministry of Environment in 2009.

Mau forest in the South Rift region is one of the leading water catchments in the country and is home to an estimated 15,000 Ogiek families who claim to be indigenous land owners.

According to the 2019 census, Ogiek community members across the country are estimated to be 52,000.

The Ogiek community has faced a lot since the colonial times of consistent persecution and denial of their land rights, worsening over the last two decades.

In 2009, after the frustration, they filed a case with the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights.

In 2012, the commission referred the matter to the African Court on the grounds that the evicted faced serious and mass human rights violations.

In its ruling, the court in Arusha, Tanzania, ordered the government of Kenya to halt parceling out of the land in the disputed forest area until it decided on the matter.

The Ogiek community members living in Kenya’s Mau and Mt Elgon forests are hunters and gatherers.

“The government has for many years committed harassment and arbitrary forced eviction of the Ogiek community without consultation or compensation,” said Kaila.

They further called on the government to speed up the implementation by remedying the violations meted to the Ogiek community as directed by the African Court.

In addition, they said that the judgment would change the plight of the indigenous communities not only in Kenya but also in other African countries as a whole.

Leadership positions

According to Christopher Barno, who hails from Nandi County, President Kenyatta and his Deputy Ruto should solve the matter wholly before their tenure in office elapses, citing once they are out of office, their issues might be long forgotten.

“We want to ask the government, led by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto, to act with speed and relocate the Ogiek community back to their ancestral land which is the forest,” said Barno.

“We want assurance that there shall be nominations of leaders from the Ogiek community. We want a Senator, Member of Parliament and the Members of County Assembly from the community,”added Barno.

Barno argued that they will boycott the polls if the government could not honor the court orders.

“I want to say that as the community we shall not be able to vote if the needs of the Ogiek community cannot be prioritized,” he added.

Eroded culture

Ogiek community members from Uasin Gishu and Nandi counties, led by their secretary Joseph Kaila, performing a traditional dance at Burnt Forest, Uasin Gishu County. PHOTO/Edmond Kipngeno, The Scholar Media Africa.

“We do not have homes as Ogiek,as the other communities do; the honey and medicine which the Ogiek community was enjoying in the forest is long gone,” Barno lamented.

Denial Tuwei from Tinderet, Kosabei in Nandi County is among the community members who went to Arusha, Tanzania, during the landmark ruling.

He says there was sidelined compensation by the government to a section of the Ogiek community in the country, which they say is very divisive while citing that most of the community members are passing through hard times in the community.

While in the forest, they ate meat and wild fruits and used traditional medicine.


“There are some people calling themselves Dorobo, claiming they are too from the Ogiek community, which is very wrong.

The people living in the forest alone were the Ogiek community, and the Dorobo name came from the Maa community, which is not part of the Ogiek community,” said Tuwei.

“We are not actually begging for our land, we are the rightful owners of the land,” he said.

They claimed that most of the elders who have been fighting for the rights of the Ogiek community have died without tasting the fruits of their labor.

“Most of our elders who were in the forefront fighting for the Ogiek’s rights have actually died. Does the government of Kenya want all of us to die before implementation of the court ruling,” questioned Sally Kosgey.

Forest destruction

Kipkorir Sungura, a community member, argued that there was no problem when the Ogiek occupied the forest, but there have since been fire outbreaks in the forests.

“Since we were ousted from the forest there are people who are now very freely occupying forest and destroying it,” said Sungura.

Every time they read the budget, they do not even consider our plight. Even in other government programs, it is very rare for them to consider the Ogiek community,” noted Chepkoech, another member of the Ogiek community.

They said their children are facing challenges in accessing education as the source of their livelihoods has been paralyzed.

“Our children are passing through a lot of challenges even as far as learning is concerned, getting the fee is hard task as the economic activities we were engaging ourselves was halted after the ouster from the forest,” said David Samoei from Nandi County.

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