Monthly Archives: June 2013

Elders Sanction Raids, Claim Clergy

The clergy in Baringo County are reaching out to local traditional spiritual leaders whom they suspect sanction stock thefts. They claim that the elders, commonly referred to as laibons, authorized such attacks by “blessing” the youths involved.

The church leaders yesterday promised to undertake prayer and repentance crusades in the villages to try and change the retrogressive ways of traditional religious elders. “The cattle raiders seek the blessings of the laibons before they steal livestock. The more they succeed, the more they continue with the raids. This then becomes a continuous cycle. We will pray to break the cycle,” said AIC-Koroto pastor David Kandagor, representing clergy from Baringo North District. The clerics were among leaders who attended an inter-community peace meeting at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute in Marigat town.

The meeting was sponsored by the National Council of Churches of Kenya and the Internal Displacement Policy and Advocacy Centre. During the forum the leaders from the Pokot, Ilchamus and Tugen communities resolved to enforce a penalty equivalent to the magnitude of the damage suffered by the affected family.

The youths, who are the main cattle raiders, were urged to monitor each other and report to the security officers any absence of a fellow within three days.

County assembly speaker William Kamket said they would prioritize budgetary allocations for maintenance of peace.  He said insecurity had hindered the county’s economic development.

Mr Joseph Ngetich, the NCCK South Rift regional coordinator said lack of political goodwill had been an obstacle in ending cattle thefts.

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Posted by on June 26, 2013 in News briefs




The past few years have witnessed unprecedented interest in the hitherto harsh, dry and un inhabitable waste lands often referred to as arid and semi arid lands (ASAL) in Kenya. LAPSSET corridor is one of the flagship projects of Kenya’s vision 2030 whose objectives are “To improve access and connectivity between Kenya, Southern Sudan and Ethiopia as well as to stimulate economic activity in the Northern and Eastern parts of Kenya.

The multibillion-dollar LAPSSET project will cut across communal lands  in Lamu,Tana,Garissa,Isiolo,Meru,Samburu,Baringo,Marsabit and Turkana counties.The LAPSSET region is endowed  with rich biodiversity ranging from the desert savannahs of Lake Turkana,on the far north,to the marine life around Lamu town on the south,both UNESCO world heritage sites. A majority of the communities in the region still depend on the nature based livelihoods such as Pastoralism, Fishing, Mangrove cutting, hunting and gathering, farming and eco-tourism. Considering the ecological and cultural uniqueness of the region, the failure of the then government of president Kibaki to assess the strategic environmental assessment(SEA) of the entire LAPSSET project reflected a disregards of the rights of not only the people along LAPSSET corridor, but Kenyans as a whole to have sustainable and green economy. Many pastoralists along the LAPSSET corridor appreciate the economic benefits of the project but get concerned over the lack of transparency and the due process in project implementation and increased land speculation in their regions.Some of the pastoralists areas along LAPSSET corridor are Tana,Garissa,Isiolo,Samburu,Baringo,Marsabit and Turkana.The main source of livilihoods in these areas are pastoralism and the onset of these projects means a lot to these regions.Some of the positive impacts of the LAPSSET project to pastoralists are ;

·         Market for their livestock .The major road linking Nairobi-Isiolo-Marsabit and Ethiopia would make it easier for the transportation of livestock to reach market on time unlike before where livestock take a whole week to reach the market when they are weak thus fetching low prices and even die on the way to market.Livestock produce such as milk and hides among others can get direct access to market.Perishable produce like milk  can reach market on time after which it is refregrated before further transportation.The development of resort cities and construction of abattoir would further increase  demand for livestock produce and which will inturn highly benefit the pastoralists to meet their daily needs like educating their children.The presence of abattoir will influence the emergence of processing industries which create more jobs for the forgotten lots.

·         Increase in international tourism arrivals at Isiolo and Turkana by provision of airports thus Pastoralists communities in this area can market themselves by showcasing their culture and traditions artifacts.

·         Diversification of livelihoods would be paramount since there would be creation of substantial job opportunities directly related to the port and corridor development.These would decrease the number of youths engaging in cattlerustling in pastoralists areas along the LAPSSET corridor.

 Pastoralists peoples have mixed feelings regarding the project. While some see it as a great and viable opportunities, majority are worried of the long term impacts of the project on their rights,cultures and livilihoods.Though  the government has initiated a series of steps in addressing some of their concerns including issues regarding to land tenure, constituting conflict management committees at various levels and committing to training of communities to prepare them to be part of the implementation process, but rampant corruption and policies that disfavour pastoralists may stand in the way of any efforts to safeguard the rights of these largely illiterate and disenfranchised communities.Loss of land or territories,increased conflicts,alteration of traditional livilihood systems and collapse of cultures and traditions would be some of the anticipated negative impact of LAPSSET project.

Pastoralists rely on their natural environment to sustain their livilihoods and their traditional preoccupations but these are increasingly threatened as a result of government’s encroachment into their land,back handed treatment and lack of inclusion in conceptualizing ,designing and implementation of programmes and projects within their territories.Construction of Isiolo airport has left many people landless and no legal procedure have been met in evicting the residents, nonetheless the mapping of a resort city project in the area has also elicited increased conflict over the ownership of the project between Samburu and Borana who were previously fighting over grazing field and cattlerustling.Most of these projects comes with its  influx of visitors who will come to invest and even settle to reap the benefits that arise from these projects at the expense of the locals.As such they come forth with their own culture and traditions compromising the existing ones.Therefore,these would trigger collapse of culture and traditions in pastoralists regions along the LAPSSET corridor rendering their effort to reap from showcasing and preserving their culture at risk.These influx of people coming to settle in these regions would lead to increase in population which would trigger enchroachment into the grazing areas since there would be higher demand for residential buildings forcing an alteration of traditional livilihoods systems because in the absence of grazing areas pastoralists might be tempted to sale off their livestock and venture into businesses.The unbumped highways and the railway lines that would pass through pastoralists areas is worrying them because it would result to noise pollution which would disturb their livestock when  grazing  and the unbumped highway would claim their livestock.These too would impact to alteration of livilihood systems.Shortage of water is a norm in pastoralist areas but the coming of these huge projects would overstretch the consumption of the available water and unless an alternative source is sort there would be bound to be a conflict.

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Posted by on June 25, 2013 in Uncategorized



Brand Maasai: Why Nomads Might Trademark Their Name:

Imagine a Maasai warrior, or a Maasai woman adorned with beads – it’s one of the most powerful images of tribal Africa. Dozens of companies use it to sell products – but Maasai elders are now considering seeking protection for their “brand”.

Dressed in smart white checked shirt and grey sweater, you’d hardly know Isaac ole Tialolo is Maasai. The large round holes in his ears – where his jewellery sometimes sits – might be a clue, though. Isaac is a Maasai leader and elder. Back home in the mountains near Naivasha, in southern Kenya, he lives a semi-nomadic life, herding sheep, goats, and – mostly importantly – cattle.

But Isaac is also chair of a new Organisation, the Maasai Intellectual Property Initiative, and it’s a project that’s beginning to take him around the world – including, most recently, London. “We all know that we have been exploited by people who just come around, take our pictures and benefit from it,” he says. “We have been exploited by so many things you cannot imagine.”

Crunch time for Isaac came about 20 years ago, when a tourist took a photo of him, without asking permission – something the Maasai, are particularly sensitive about. “We believed that if somebody takes your photograph, he has already taken your blood,” he explains.

Isaac was so furious that he smashed the tourist’s camera. Twenty years later, he is mild-mannered and impeccably turned out but equally passionate about what he sees as the use, and abuse, of his culture. “I think people need to understand the culture of the others and respect it,” he says. “You should not use it to your own benefit, leaving the community or the owner of the culture without anything.” “If you just take what belongs to somebody, and go and display it and have your fortune, then it is very wrong. It is very wrong,” he says.

According to Light Years IP an NGO which specializes in securing intellectual property rights in developing countries about 80 companies around the world are currently using either the Maasai image or name.

These include Land Rover, which has a range of accessories called Maasai; Maasai Barefoot Technology, which makes specialty trainers; and high-end fashion house Louis Vuitton which has a Maasai line, including beach towels, hats, scarves and duffle bags. Light Years IP is involved in a niche but growing area of development policy, known as “intellectual property value capture”.

The argument is that intellectual property rules offer the potential to provide a valuable source of income for people in developing countries, who tend to get only a small sliver of the profits made on their goods on the international market.

If the Maasai “brand” were owned by a corporation, it would be worth more than $10m (£6.6m) a year perhaps even “tens of millions”, according to Layton. How much of this the Maasai might be able to claim would be up to negotiation. “It’s time the world sat up and took notice,” says Lord Boateng, a member of the UK’s House of Lords, whose grandfather was a cocoa farmer in Ghana. “It’s an idea whose time has come.”

Boateng is on the board of directors of the newly-created African IP Trust, which has taken on the Maasai as one of its first cases. “They are not getting value. Their image is being abused,” says Boateng. “The Maasai are an ancient and sophisticated people – they know they are being ripped off and they want this to stop.”

It is not yet certain that the Maasai will choose to pursue intellectual property protection – Maasai elders like Isaac ole Tialolo want to be sure that the whole community is on board first. Together with Light Years IP, he has been travelling around Maasai areas holding meetings and workshops.

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Posted by on June 19, 2013 in Uncategorized



Culture Soothes Turkana Locals From Cattle Rustling:

They say wonders never cease to happen. I watched in awe while at the shores of Lake Turkana recently as sunset and moonrise changed hands. It was 6.20pm. Minutes later, the sun that had been inching towards its Western home dimmed across the azure waters and a full moon was firmly in control, lighting the undulating desert landscape, home to some of Kenya’s most warlike communities.

It was time for nocturnal life around the world’s largest desert lake, among them hippopotamus, the rough skinned desert toads, giant scorpions and mother denizens of this arid jungle to rule the territory that is reputedly the cradle of humankind.

It is in this expanse that the famous Turkana boy skeleton, the only nearly complete human related fossil dating back to about 1.6 million years, was discovered. Equally nocturnal in their lifestyle are the El Molo, a near extinct community of less than 1,000 living souls. Able-bodied El Molo is known to spend most nights in the lake, fishing and hunting hippos.

Sunset coincidence

Besides the entrancing sunset/moonrise coincidence (it does not always happen here), Saturday May 25 witnessed an unusual nightlife on the Southern shores of Lake Turkana, thanks to the annual Lake Turkana Cultural Festival.  Under the starry moonlit skies, dancers from all the 12 communities (Boran, Sakuye, Burji, Rendile, Gabbra, Konso, Wata, Dashna, El Molo, Samburu, Turkana and Gare) that spend much of their time fighting, sang and danced their hearts out together prior to a unique version of catwalk where the dusty soil cleared of scorpions and mother crawling creatures was the natural carpet.  David Mathenge a.k.a Nameless, a Nairobi-based artiste invited to curry the occasion with his music played local tunes to the rhythm of the catwalk before he electrified the stage with his latest beats. 12 catwalks in all for the 12 communities took place.

The catwalk was the acme of activities during which the 12 communities straddling Marsabit, Samburu and Turkana counties showcased their rich heritage in the form of dressing, food, tools of trade, dances and songs. Among the audience who braved the dust-laden draughts to watch the display were the German ambassador to Kenya Ms Margit Hellwig-Boette, Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Culture and Arts Dr Hassan Wario, Tourism Permanent Secretary Ambassador Ruth Solitei, Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) Managing Director Muriithi Ndegwa and Director General, of the National Museums of Kenya Dr Idle Farah.

Others were the Chief Executive of Vision 2030 Mugo Kebati, Director General of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission Dr Mzalendo Kibunjia, Samburu County Governor Moses Kasaine Lenolkulal, Turakana County Deputy Governor Peter Ekai Lokoel and the Marsabit County Governor Ukur Yattani who was the host of this annual event.

Sporting all manner of ornaments available to them, those selected to perform were resplendent in their traditional attire largely derived from hides and skin, gaudily coloured shukas, an assortment of beads, iron and bone bracelets, and guards of various sizes, feathers, artificial and natural flowers.

Conventional attires

 All had either akala shoes cut out of old tyres or slippers on their feet. Only the Boran and the Gare, a Somali sub tribe wore conventional attires. Gachu Ganya, the MP for North Horr in Marsabit County came dressed in Boran traditional outfits.

In what can aptly be dubbed “a jig in the desert”, the locals poured on the dusty grounds that served as a makeshift arena gyrating, shaking their backsides, flailing their hands, jerking their legs and nodding their heads to the tunes they have only heard on the radio when Nameless declared the dance a free for all with his own renditions such as turudi nyumbani (let us go back home) and karibia, usiuogope- (come close, do not fear).

Nameless rolled out one popular beat after the other as the excited crowd electrified by live performance kept asking for more. Instead of stealing from each other and engaging in internecine bloody wars, as has been their wont, the 12 communities danced into the wee hours of the night.

Ambassador Hellwig –Boette whose embassy has been central to the festival since its inception in 1998 after the infamous post-election clashes, said though not a panacea for the region’s problems, social events among communities were an effective buffer to hostilities. She said the German embassy would continue supporting the festival that has grown to 12 communities from the initial 10.

Cultural centre

Cabinet Secretary Wario promised that a permanent cultural centre— complete with exhibitions, would be built on the ground set aside for the annual event at Loiyangalani so that activities continue the whole year round.

“The centre will be active the whole year round as a tourist attraction that will offer employment to the locals and contribute to the economy of this area,” said Dr Wario.

Tourism PS Solitei and the Kenya Tourism Board MD Ndegwa urged the county governments in northern Kenya to make security their top priority.  “With improved security, foreign and local tourists will flock to this region to sample the virgin rich and diverse cultures and to see where the entire human race originated,” said Solitei.

Demand for peace

Mr Ndegwa on his part said: “All we are demanding from you is to maintain peace among yourselves. Do not kill each other and create fear. Our security forces will take care of the borders,” he told the 12 communities.

Dr Kibunjia said cultural activities were not only a uniting force, but a way of upholding identities that would otherwise be lost to posterity. “It is a pity that cultural identities such as the El Molo language and lifestyle are dying. The museum and other organizations must not allow this to happen,” Dr Kibunjia said.

Governor Yattani promised support for the festival that he described as “the pride of our region” known more for cattle rustling and senseless conflict. “My counterparts from Samburu and Turkana are here, a sign that we are ready to cultivate peace,” noted Mr Yattani.

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Posted by on June 19, 2013 in News briefs



Community Land Rights: Which Way Forward, Now That They Are A Reality?

The recognition by the Constitution that all land belongs to the people and that such land can be held by the people as communities has sought to correct a historical fallacy that has existed in Kenya since the start of the colonial period.

The Colonial Government introduced laws and policies whose effect was to disregard communal approaches to land-ownership and use. It was argued that communities were not legal entities capable of having property rights in land.

When land was vested in communities, so the fallacy went, the land would be mismanaged since there was no sufficient control, with access being open to everyone.  The resultant situation would be chaos and open access, what a famous scholar, Garett Hardin, referred to as the Tragedy of the Commons.

Colonial laws and policies, gave false premium to private property rights to land, focusing all efforts towards individual ownership.  This policy was used to give Europeans access to and control of the most productive land, and to disinherit Africans.

On attainment of independence, the laws and policies on land, continued with this approach, viewing private property as the most economical mode of land-holding. The law gave very little attention to customary land holdings

Despite this, communities continued to own and use land through communal arrangements. In essence, the country had a dual tenure arrangement, one recognised by the law and another existing in spite of the law.

The National Land Policy and the adoption of the Constitution in 2010 have corrected this error. Henceforth, communities can own and use land.  However there are several hurdles still to overcome to make community land rights a reality.

First, identifying and defining the “community” for purposes of vesting legal ownership is a difficult task.  The Constitution states that a community shall be identified on the basis of ethnicity, culture or similar communality of interest. Each of these criteria qualifies a group of people to be identified as a community.

The difficulty arises where the three criteria sit side by side and lead to different results in terms of defining the community. The law would have to specify how you reconcile such issues.

Secondly, land ownership has been one of the causes of conflicts in the past. The application of the criteria must be alive to this and seek to avoid enhancing ethnicity by promoting the right of every Kenyan to own land in any part of the republic.

Debate also exists regarding the process of identification of members of the community and the rights they are entitled to. Should the basis of membership be birth, marriage, assimilation or a process of either registration or census?

Others suggest that the solution should be that once you determine the unit of the community, you register the land in the community’s name and ensure its availability for use and avoid the complicated process of census to determine membership.

The law should also balance between communal rights and the rights of individuals within the community.  Historically, communal rights included a layer of rights shared among various levels within the community, with the political leadership having the rights of control, the clan having some rights, the family having others, and the individual another set of rights.

A useful law and policy to implement the constitutional provisions on community land rights must protect both the rights of the community and those of individuals. Special attention must be paid to ensure that groups like women and children that have traditionally been disadvantaged under customary rules receive equitable treatment.

The Constitution also encourages the use of traditional dispute resolution mechanisms. In communal land rights, the role of traditional institutions, like the council of elders will be imperative.  They will free up the newly established Environment and Land courts from mundane cases that are better resolved at the community level.

The ongoing efforts to develop a Community Land Law gives the country an opportunity to deal with some of these issues in a manner that is fair and just and results in security of tenure.

To ensure that the resulting law is in accord with the National Land Policy and the provisions of the Constitution, more robust debate on the proposals from the Task Force on Community Land Rights is imperative.

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Posted by on June 6, 2013 in News Briefs



Devolution Will Flop If People Cannot Save:

It is good that the government is walking the talk about devolution. Even though some would consider it a little slow, it is a walk anyway.  Like most Kenyans, I think the government is facing serious challenges regarding funding county governance. However, these challenges should not be used as an excuse to frustrate governors.

In fact, Members of Parliament should shift their energies from increasing their salaries to debates on how their counties can generate more revenue, conceding that the government is unable to pay more, and even if it did, then in the spirit of patriotism, be willing to sacrifice a pay rise for the benefit of their constituents.

But is this possible in the 11th Parliament? The likely answer is no. However, I praise President Kenyatta’s tough stance on salary increases until the economic growth registers double digits. Many countries are exercising austerity, cutting spending and capping their debts. These measures have seen sluggish economies like that of the US recover.

For example, their property/ housing market that led to the global financial crisis is now on a steady annual growth path and other sectors of the economy like retail trading are registering profits owing to growing consumer confidence.

The US is also keen on using locally available resources to reduce money spent on importing oil. They have done this through investing in future energy like wind and solar and sophisticated oil drilling techniques, cutting almost by half US reliance on foreign oil.

At the individual level, most Americans are big spenders. However, since the financial crisis, this category of people has learnt a lot from their conservative counterparts who save everything from tissue paper to food.

The conservatives are famous for being “stingy” and maximizing whatever little they have. They are now one of the key pillars of the US economic recovery. In Washington, they strive to ensure no more big-spending from the democrats.

On the contrary, Kenyans are prone to wasting the scarce resources locally available. If you tour the counties, you will realize that each is blessed with unique resources, be it oil, milk, flowers, tea, limestone, coffee, sugarcane, cotton, or fish.

But how often have we heard of sugarcane or milk going to waste because farmers were not paid their money? Though county governments can avoid such challenges in the future, the problem is that people consume these resources without saving for tomorrow. Take Lake Victoria, for example.

Though the water hyacinth can be blamed for the shortage of fish in areas like Kisumu, people have been fishing indiscriminately, giving little room for fish regeneration.

In addition, the absence of proper storage facilities gave rise to the notion that all the catch has to be consumed while still fresh. This notion has led to the paradox of expensive fish in hotels alongside the lake in Kisumu.

You can extend this argument in other counties and I am certain you will find your own local examples. Devolution will not benefit Kenyans unless they learn how to conserve the little they have.

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Posted by on June 5, 2013 in latest news