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Monthly Archives: July 2013

“Armed Officers Torch Pastoralist Houses in Forceful Eviction Over Community Land”

Armed police officers and hired goons on Friday raided a Maasai village in Naivasha evicting tens of families and destroying property worth thousands of shillings.
The armed officers from Rapid Deployment Unit descended on Narasha village demolishing houses and torching others as members of the community watched from a distance. The officers, who were acting on a court order, brought down all structures on the 3,000 acres piece of land and warned the affected families to keep off.
Scores were injured after police opened fire at the evictees with Kajiado North MP Moses Ole Sakuda vowing to paralyses operations in the nearby Kengen power plant. Emotions run high as some of the women and their children broke into tears saying that they knew no other home. The families added that they had not been served with an eviction notice and accused the officers of using excessive force to evict them.
According to one of the elders Mwangi Sururu, the eviction caught them by surprise and they did not salvage anything. Sururu said that he was born on the land adding that he would not move out as this was the only home he knew. “We were not served with any eviction notice and we shall move to court to seek justice as we feel that we are being oppressed because we are poor,” he said.
Naivasha senior DO Michael Kioni say they were acting on a court order. Speaking on phone, Kioni said that owners of the land had obtained a court order from the High Court seating in Nakuru. “The order directed the County Commissioner to provide security to an auctioneer who had been appointed to evict those on the land,” he said.
Kioni said that there were sixteen families living on the land illegally despite getting several messages to move out. He said that during the sub-division of the 16,338 acres of Ngati farm two years ago, members of the Kikuyu and Maasai communities got a share of their land. “The evicted families living in Narasha refused to move where the Maasai got their share of 4,207 acres and that is why there are getting evicted,” he said.
At the scene, personal effects were littered all over while others were still smoldering with AP officers heightening security.

Source standardnewspaper 27/07/2013

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Posted by on July 30, 2013 in News briefs

 

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Fresh Hope “Girl Rescued From Marriage”

When the nationwide teachers strike was called off last week, many pupils received the news with excitement. They looked forward to meeting their colleagues and teachers whom they had not seen for the three weeks the industrial action had been in force. It gave them the hope of realizing their dreams. But this was not the case for Naserian Shura, a 13-year-old Standard Five pupil at Naikarra Primary School in Narok South District, Narok County.
The day the strike was called off, her 56-year-old father was playing host to visitors who had come to seek Naseriana’s hand in marriage. A 37-year-old man who was to be Naserian’s husband had paid Sh37, 000 that was used to entertain visitors. In addition, he had brought the young girl’s father a bull, known among the Maasai as Orkiteng Lorpaa, which was to be slaughtered in two days’ time, the day Naserian was to be circumcised.
The girls head had been shaved clean and local liquor brewed; all these symbolizing the readiness of Naserian to begin a long journey to motherhood. Surprisingly, all this was going on without her consent.
She saw for the first time the man she was supposed to spend the rest of her life with that morning. She swore to herself that nothing and no one was going to stop her from achieving her dream of becoming a doctor.
I approached one of my sisters and requested her to take a missive to my colleagues in school. I told her it was a letter informing them that I was not going to join them in school because I was getting married, said Naserian.
When the news of the intended cut and subsequent marriage that their friend was about to go through reached the school, 146 girls, accompanied by their head teacher Mr Loontubu Koileken and area assistant chief Maibuko ole Shura ( a brother to Naseriana’s father), decided to go and rescue her.
Second lease
In no time, the angry girls stormed the party and frog marched Naserian’s parents and would-be husband to Naikarra police post. Naserian, who was dressed in traditional regalia, was asked to change into school uniform and taken to the institution to begin her life as a boarder.
With tears running down her cheeks, Naserian thanked her colleagues for giving her a second lease of life. I was really tormented by the fact that my life as a student was going to be rudely brought to an abrupt end. I am thankful to my fellow pupils, head teacher and my uncle, she said.

She admits that her predicament has given her the impetus to work even harder to achieve her dream of becoming a doctor. I want to be a role model and give support to other vulnerable girls in the community, she said.
According to the head teacher, over 117 girls who have been rescued from Female Genital mutilation and early marriages are being hosted at the school. We are overwhelmed by this number because we do not have a sponsor. These girls have several needs and their parents abandon them immediately their plans are foiled, said Koileken.
He revealed that the school rears cattle, pigs and rabbits to sustain the increasing number of students. Koileken says students are encouraged to talk about their tribulations in order to find solutions.
He blames the community for adamantly sticking to cultural practices that add no value to their lives. Here we teach our boys to change their attitude towards Female Genital mutilation and early marriages. They will be ambassadors of the message we want every member of the community to hear, he said.
Sylvia Naserian, a Class Eight pupil terms the practice as inhuman and should be stopped with immediate effect. It is hurting that a girl who has not even reached reproductive age is being married off. We are the future and we plead to be given our rights; the right to education, she said.
Patrick Kariankei, the school head boy, is full of praise for the school head and the girls who were involved in the rescue mission.

source standardnewspaper 22/07/13

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2013 in News briefs

 

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MAASAI ANGER AS THEY LOSE LAND TO ARAB HUNTERS.

In a remote corner of northern Tanzania, Boeing 747 planes land on a private airstrip, trucks with United Arab Emirates (UAE) number plates drive across the plains, and anyone with a cell phone receives an unlikely text message:

“Dear guest, welcome to UAE.”

For centuries, the sprawling savannah in the Arusha region of the East African nation was home to the Maasai people, but these days it can feel more like Dubai, one of the states that make up the UAE. That is because this chunk of land in Arusha’s Loliondo area near the Serengeti National Park has been leased to an Emirati hunting company called the Ortello Business Corporation (OBC).

Since 1992, OBC has flown in wealthy clients to shoot lions and leopards, angering nomadic Maasai cattle herders who are blocked from pastures in the hunting grounds. Now, Tanzania’s government wants to give more land to the hunters by establishing a 1,500 sq km (579 sq mile) wildlife corridor exclusively for OBC. The plan would displace about 30,000 people and affect tens of thousands more who graze cattle there in the dry season.

The Maasai have erupted in protest, saying their livelihoods will be destroyed. More than 90% of Loliondo’s Maasai depend on rearing livestock on seasonal grasses there. “Without land we cannot live,” said Naishirita Tenemeri, a mother of three.

Ms Tenemeri raises cows and goats in Loliondo to pay for food and her children’s schooling. The Maasai have a history of losing their land in Tanzania since the British moved them from the Serengeti in 1959.

The former coloniser guaranteed future land rights, but post-independence governments further restricted grazing rights and the latest proposal would remove almost 40% of Loliondo’s highland prairie and forested mountains.

Ruling party cards spurned

Earlier this month, Ms Tenemeri, wrapped in a traditional red-checked blanket known as a shuka, joined 1,000 people, mostly women, under thorny acacia trees at Olorien village to protest at the plans. Some walked for days for the chance to show their anger by publicly giving up their membership cards for Tanzania’s ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM).

“If I have no land then I have no place to deliver my children,” said Morkelekei Gume, as she tossed her CCM card to the ground. “My son is in secondary school because of the grass from here.”If they need my land they can kill me.”

The women have been so outspoken because they bear the worst of the evictions, left jobless to care for children while the men move to cities, where many find work as security guards. They have also led the protests since local politicians, who had said they backed the campaign against the wildlife corridor, later refused to resign from the party as they had promised to do.

The women’s outcry spurred the deputy secretary general of the CCM to trek all the way to Olorien, a collection of huts eight hours by four-wheel-drive from the region’s main city of Arusha. CCM officials then denounced the planned corridor, but the ministry of tourism, and by extension Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, stands firm.

Mr Kikwete, who will stand down at the next election, in 2015, after two terms in office, has tried for almost a decade to give more land to OBC. During a 2009 drought, he sent national police to help OBC block herders from vital water source meters away from the company’s current hunting ground.

The Maasai say more than half of their cattle died as a result. Isaac Mollel, the executive directive of OBC’s Tanzania branch, says people are only blocked from water resources during the July to December hunting season – which coincides with the dry season. “If there is hunting going on, it is going to be dangerous if someone comes around and grazes,” he said.

Royal visitors

For John Moina, who exports cattle from Loliondo to Kenya, Mr Kikwete’s message was clear.The government is saying OBC is better than citizens of Tanzania,” he said.

But Mr Kikwete’s government can earn more income in Loliondo from tourism through OBC – which has catered for English royalty like Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, and the UAE royal family – than livestock. And Loliondo is ideal for developing tourism.

It is rich in game with few visitors, and borders the Serengeti, Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Park, and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Tourism Minister Khamis Kagasheki defends the evictions, saying the project will promote conservation as the Maasai are exhausting the land. “These 1,500 sq km are a crucial breeding area for wildlife, a corridor for the iconic great migration of wildebeest, and a critical water catchment area,” he said in a press release.However, academics say the Maasai barely affect wildlife.

“I would question those who say that the Maasai create more of a threat to wildlife than the hunting OBC is doing,” said Benjamin Gardner of the University of Washington, who has studied Maasai land issues for two decades.

The Maasai rarely hunt, and use the corridor’s highlands to avoid wildebeest that give birth in the lowlands and can spread disease to cattle. If Loliondo’s 66,000 Maasai plus their livestock are hemmed into only 2,500 sq km, they may overstress land and wildlife. “There is no big drought now,” said Samwel Nangiria, who heads a group of Maasai non-governmental organizations called NGO Network. “But if they get the corridor it is going to affect twice as many people as 2009.”

Regardless, Mr Kagasheki has vigorously defended the government’s right to appropriate the land, accusing the Maasai of living in Loliondo illegally and blaming the unrest on foreign-funded groups. OBC too points the finger at NGOs and says it has invested in the area over the last 20 years, digging five boreholes, building classrooms and a hospital. “The people communicating for the Maasai are not the Maasai themselves. They make sure that [there is] no clear understanding between the investors and the indigenous people of Loliondo,” Mr Mollel says.

In fact, he says their current five-year concession was supposed to allow them access to the whole of the 4,000 sq km Loliondo area – so the smaller corridor is actually a concession to the Maasai.

He also says that, in the government’s eyes, the Maasai do not own the land, and it will help protect a drought-prone area. Thirteen civil society groups from across Tanzania said in a statement that the Maasai do have title deeds for the corridor and the government is “going out of its ways to deliberately mislead the public”.

Maasai representatives plan to take the government to court over the corridor, but fear this may not lead to a quick resolution of the problem as a case from 2009 remains unheard. Mr Nangiria believes there has been deliberate administrative blocking of their legal action as it is a constitutional case which requires three judges, but there is only one judge in Arusha and the other judges have yet to be sent for. “The government should stop interfering with the judiciary,” the civil society groups said in a statement.

So the women under the acacia trees may be running out of options. “Our government is taking us from our land,” said Paulina Leysa to a group of fellow protesters. “We are crying to anyone who can help.

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2013 in News briefs

 

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CHALLENGES FACING PASTORALIST CHILD:

The Supreme Court of Kenya on 31st March gave a ruling on the Presidential Elections petitions, paving way for the Jubilee Coalition government to take over the running of the national government for the next five years. Of interest to many Kenyans as well as the ICT sub-sector is the Jubilee Coalition promise to provide solar powered laptops to every child within the first 100 days in office.

The relevant part of the Jubilee manifesto reads:

“…Work with international partners to provide solar powered lap-top computers equipped with relevant content for every school age child in Kenya…”

With campaigns over, many wonder whether it is feasible to actualize this promise. Opinion is divided, with some being of the view that in 2003, free primary education (FPE) that looked too enormous a project at the time yet it was implemented. [1] In fact, companies such as Samsung have already expressed their willingness to supply the laptops for this programme. Another school of thought is that this is a pipe dream because Kenya has too many other problems to solve. For example, public debt has been on the rise, we are transitioning to a devolved government system and the same is costly, most of the public sector is undertaking reforms and anyway, the public wage bill is already very high.

There have been opponents and proponents in equal measure for this initiative. The opponents argue that the Kenyan public schools have more pressing needs such as expanding the number of classrooms and hiring more teachers, equipping pupils with text-books, desks, blackboards amongst others. 

Yet others have argued that buying laptops could be the easier part, knowing what to do with them given the lack of primary school ICT curriculum and ICT literate teachers will be the bigger headache.

The proponents however argue that whereas the pressing needs exists, they can be addressed while simultaneously equipping the Kenyan pupil with the digital skills required to work in the 21st century knowledge economy. 

In a meeting held on Tuesday at State House Nairobi, Microsoft Global President Jean-Philippe Courtois said his company will support the Government in training all primary school teachers to enable them implement computer to schools programmes by January next year.

Courtois further said that “his company will work with different partners to develop at least five enterprises in each County to provide technical support in hardware, connectivity and software to all schools in the country”.

He also assured the President that his organization will develop a research and innovation hub at Konza Technology Park to support software developers in the country adding that through Microsoft’s universal access to broadband programme, the company will provide connectivity to rural schools, hospitals and homes.

In welcoming the support of Microsoft, President Kenyatta said his Government is ready to enter into partnerships that will facilitate the implementation of ICT programmes in the country in a cost-effective manner.

Pastoralist children in the Horn of Africa face some of the greatest challenges and are among the most vulnerable in the world an estimated four million pastoralist children according to UNICEF live in water-scarce arid and semi-arid areas, characterized by poor roads, communication infrastructure ,few investments ,limited education opportunities because there are no physical structures and lack of basic services.

The effects of retrogressive cultural practices practiced over the years – among them cattle rustling, female genital mutilation and early forced marriages have had a very negative effect on the development of children in this community- factors that are a major challenge to the government of Kenya in the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals –MDGs as entailed in the Kenya Vision 2030.

Among this nomadic and pastoral community, meeting the millennium development goal of a world fit for children is still a far-fetched wish. The children have very limited opportunities to education and the girls are more vulnerable to the effects of the outdated cultural practices.

While the international community has pledged to strive for a world of peace, equity, tolerance, security, freedom, respect for the environment and shared responsibility in which special care and attention is given to the most vulnerable; especially the children, the pastoral Pokot child is still grappling with his/her survival. Access to food, health care, education, adequate nutrition, protection from harm and other necessary opportunities is still a mirage.

Due to high illiteracy levels and attachment to culture, the idea of global child rights, universal free primary education and issues to do with children cannot be explained to their satisfaction. To them, education is the art of teaching a child the traditional norms that must be observed at all stages of growth. Gender roles and responsibilities will be outlined. The girl will know that she must at all times feed the family, fetch water and firewood. She is psychologically prepared for ages 8 to 12 when she will go through what every woman is said to cherish- female genital mutilation, leading to early marriage to a suitor only known to her father. She is told that she has no choice over who marries her- even if he is her grandfather’s age, and even if she will make the fifth or sixth wife.

The boy child, on the other hand is introduced to grazing cattle at the age of five. He has to ensure that the cattle have access to the limited pastures and water sources in the dry land. He begins being a nomad at this age. He will also be introduced to handling the gun because he is the community’s protector and the livestock as well. He has to protect them against their frequent enemies, who have made rustling a trade. These informal teachings make him a ‘Moran’- fearless and ready to die while defending what belongs to his community.

This scenario has worsened in the predominantly arid zones, where communities are solely dependent on livestock. They eat meat and drink milk and blood from their cattle, with any other substitutes coming from relief supplies, which are never enough for their large families.

Culture has therefore down played the role of a girl child in the family, denying her an opportunity to receive education and contribute to the economic development of her community. The girls’ enrolment in school at basic levels is very high, but they drop out in large numbers at grade three because at this stage, they have attained age eight when they ought to undergo some cultural rites of passage, leading to womanhood. They are therefore forcibly withdrawn from school, or they fall out on their own volition on account of the informal teaching they received on the value of being circumcised.

The government is very much aware of these and other challenges impacting negatively on the development of the pastoral child. It has therefore empowered the law enforcing agents to use the Children’s Act to prosecute the offenders. But as we all may know, culture dies hard, and it may take a little more effort from other stakeholders to liberate the pastoral child from the negative effects of culture.

It is possible to take these children out of the community and relocate them to a place where the ‘village’ can be removed from them. These will be the ambassadors of change in this community that really deserves the change.

We need to come together and find a lasting solution to this crucial matter. If you have any suggestions on how best we can do this please let us know so that we can partner to bring change.

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2013 in News briefs, Uncategorized

 

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