One could easily confuse Jacinta Atiir’s compound for an antenatal and postnatal clinic due to the expectant mothers waiting for their turn to see the famous ‘doctor’ every morning.

Atiir is an untrained traditional birth attendant who carries out her trade at Chokchok village, Turkana Central which is 30 kilometres from Lodwar town.

Dressed in traditional regalia, Atiir has her hands full every day, handlinf an endless stream of expectant mothers and those with young infants who require her to play the role of both midwife and doctor.

Though she has never been trained in midwifery or safe motherhood, Atiir has been doing this work for the past six years and a visit to her ‘clinic’ proves to be a real eye opener.

“On average monthly, I attend to 15 expectant mothers who come from six different villages of the vast Turkana Central constituency. I do not charge and it is up to the women to determine whatever token they want to give me,” she said.


Atiir says beyond just offering midwifery services she also provides prenatal and antenatal care to the women especially new mothers who do not know what to expect.

She says pregnant women prefer coming to her manyatta since she gives special attention to each one and ensures that they deliver safely and for free.

Atiir says many children in the village, aged six-years and below were born in her manyatta and seeing them grow healthy and strong fills her with much joy.

“When I first started, I did not have so many women seeking my help but over time, the numbers increased and while I do not have the exact numbers, I believe I have helped midwife not less than 4,000 children in my period of service to the community,” she said.

During delivery, Atiir says she uses traditional sheep oil to massage the pregnant woman’s belly, as the woman lies flat on a mat, then she uses a sharp knife to cut the umbilical cord when the baby has been born.

When The Standard visited Atiir’s ‘clinic’, we found 25-year-old Paulina Ngipeyok, a mother of three, who was among the many pregnant women waiting to see the traditional birth attendant for antenatal care.

Ngipeyok, who was visibly in pain, said she had walked seven kilometres from her home in Nangomo village just to get the help she needs from Atiir.

She says there is a hospital in Lodwar but it is too far and by the time labour pains set in there is no time to walk several kilometres to the Level Five hospital.

“This is the fourth delivery I will be doing in this compound. I feel comfortable here, she handles us in a motherly way and I would still come here again,” Ngipeyok says before she is taken into the manyatta where she is examined by the traditional birth attendant who massages her stomach.

After three hours, Ngipeyok gives birth to a a bouncing baby who she calls Nasepon.

Akuj Angelei, who has brought her infant for treatment says Atiir has become their saviour in maternity issues and they run to her every time they either have an issue with their pregnancy, are about to deliver or have a problem with their infants.

“We rely on Attir to help us and she finds a way to solve our problems. We hear there are very important vaccinations like diphtheria, polio and tetanus that are usually administered in the hospitals, but she solves our problems here,” Angelei said.


Though committed to her work, Atiir poses a danger to the same community she serves given that she uses un-sterilised tools to serve the mothers thus exposing them to various infections.

“I always use the same razor for the different women,” she says, oblivious to the dangers of transmitting diseases to those she has dedicated her life to help.

Speaking to The Standard, Health County Executive Jane Ajele, said she is aware of the problem faced by the expectant mothers of Chokchok.

“It is unfortunate that the people of Chokchok have been without a dispensary since independence. The county government is however, working to address this issue and will soon put up a modern facility in the area to serve residents of the six highly affected villages,” she said.

Governor Josphat Nanok has said that his government has given the health sector the lion’s share of this year’s financial budget.

He said Sh2.1 bilion has been set aside to improve operations and infrastructure in the sector in order to curb the county’s increased mortality rates.

“We want to make sure that such cases are reduced or eliminated in our county. We are working on a robust health programme that will ensure that every Turkana resident has easy access to professional health services,” the governor said.

Source: The Standard Tuesday, September 16th 2014

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Posted by on September 16, 2014 in INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES




A civil society organization working in West Pokot County has raised concern over a sharp increase in malnutrition cases among children in the region.

 In a research conducted in June this year, Action Against Hunger (ACH), a non-governmental organization working in semi-arid regions established the rise in the cases adversely affecting children below the age of five.

West Pokot County ranks among the most affected regions nationally with about 43.7 percent of children suffering from chronic malnutrition.

 This is above the national figure of 35 percent as nutritionists attribute the trend to prolonged dry spell that has occasioned acute food shortage and high poverty index besides low literacy levels.

While addressing stakeholders during a two day workshop on scaling up nutrition held in Kapenguria, Leah Chelobe, a nutritionist attached to ACH, warned that the challenge requires quick intervention.

She noted that the high malnutrition rate needs to be reduced to atleast below the national figure to reduce mortality rates.

She disclosed that about 20 cases of chronic malnutrition were reported at Kapenguria District Hospital in June adding that the figure had doubled compared to the previous year.

“Most households have been affected by hunger as a result of prolonged drought hence they lack sufficient food to sustain them with children bearing the greatest brunt,” she pointed out.

Chelobei challenged the government to make a special budget for nutrition sector in the next financial year to help deal with the problem in pastoral areas.

Noting that pastoral communities were the most affected according to a report by World Health Organization (WHO), Chelobei urged the government to put more efforts in containing the problem.

 Source: The Standard Wednesday, August 27th 2014



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Posted by on August 28, 2014 in INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES



Leaders from warring clans in Northern Kenya have failed to strike a peace deal, even after President Uhuru Kenyatta directed that a road map for peace be developed.
There have been deadly clashes between the Garre and Degodia clans in Mandera County, sparked by boundary rows and political representation.
The week-long talks held two weeks ago collapsed after the representatives of the Garre turned down several proposals, including that of disarming what the Degodia clan claimed to be a 2,400-strong militia from Kenya and Ethiopia.
The Garre have since refuted claims that there was such a militia whose composition, the Degodia clan claims, got military training from the Somalia programme sponsored by Igad (Intergovernmental Authority on Development).
“There is a highly trained militia in Mandera, which has been used to purge opposing clans from the county,” said Mohamed Abdi, a politician from Rhamu in Mandera North.
Through the Igad programme, thousands of young men had been recruited to assist in the fight against Al Shabaab in Somalia. It is feared that the trained men, many of them from Mandera County, returned from Somalia and Ethiopia, and are being used as community militia.
Police officers confirmed the presence of trained militia in one of the latest conflicts in Gunana Village, at the border of Mandera and Wajir counties, where dozens were killed a month ago.

Source: The Standard Sunday, August 3rd 2014


Hundreds of Maasai Families Under Threat of Eviction as Geothermal Companies Invade Their Land

Reminiscent of what happened to the Maasai community in Narasha in 2013, Maasai pastoralists in Kedong, Akira and Suswa are glaring at massive evictions arising from a group of concessions awarded to several companies including Hyundai, Toshiba, Sinopec and African Geothermal International (AGIL) for the purposes of developing geothermal projects on the Maasai lands.

According to the local communities–who claim ancestry to the land and have filed cases in Kenyan courts– African Geothermal International (AGIL) and Marine Power along with Akira I and Akira II have disregarded court injunctions instituted by the Maasai, proceeding to deploy their heavy machinery to their proposed project sites without due diligence or consultations with the local communities. The concession areas, which cover hundreds of thousands of acres, are home to thousands of Maasai pastoralists.

The communities feel that their rights have been grossly violated because each of the companies have failed to adhere to Bio-cultural Community Protocols that require all external actors to respect Indigenous Peoples’ customary laws, values and decision making processes; particularly those concerning stewardship of their territories and lands.

The companies have also disregarded a current dispute between Kedong Ranch Ltd and the Maasai community along with key provisions from the constitution of Kenya (2010). Article 40 of the constitution provides for the protection of the right to property (of any kind) without discrimination and just, prompt and full compensation where acquisition is of national interest. The right to a clean and healthy environment is equally guaranteed under Article 42 in addition to the right to a cultural heritage.

While the Maasai are not against infrastructure development for the country, they are equally distressed over the companies’ similar dismissal of the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). By forcefully evicting the Maasai from their land while denying them the opportunity to participate in and benefit from the development projects, the companies are also in contravention of the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing.

On top of these concerns, the Maasai decry the use of armed police to enforce the evictions, the destruction of their property, and the outright dispossession of their grazing land which is the only source of their livelihoods.

The Maasai demand the following: (a) That the current deployment of armed police to enforce the evictions be stopped forthwith (b) That the companies be held in contempt for disregarding court orders.(c) That a clear and documented plan on access to benefit sharing be put in place to ensure the affected families’ livelihoods are sustained.(d)That other bilateral donors that support the projects being undertaken hold consultative meetings with the Maasai community before any further investments are made.
(e) That the current ESIA reports which excluded livestock, homes and cultural rights should not be used and instead a team that includes Indigenous People be reconstituted to undertake another Environmental and Social Impact Assessment.

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Posted by on June 17, 2014 in INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES


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Communities Face Extinction After Forest Evictions

For centuries, the aboriginal Sengwer people have lived, hunted and gathered in Embobut Forest, Elgeyo/Marakwet and parts of West Pokot counties. The forest and its surrounding offered them a perfect home. However, the Government recently evicted them in efforts to restore the Cherenganyi water tower that is under threat following massive destruction of the forest. Already, most rivers that source water from the forest have dried up. Among them is Kerion, which feeds Lake Turkana while Lake Kamanorok in Kerio Valley has been reduced to a grazing field. The Sengwer claim the forest is their permanent home and some have defied Government’s order to relocate. Their defiance stems from the fear that if completely uprooted from the forest, the community might cease to exist, as it is known know. Their cousins, the Ogiek, were flashed out of Mau forest in 2008 as the Government embarked on a mission to reclaim the water tower. The Sengwer fear their survival and culture could be wiped out by the larger Kalenjin tribes.

They have been assimilated by the Marakwets while Ogiek have been ‘swallowed up’ by Maasai and Kipsigis. Both communities were purely hunters and gatherers spending all their time in the forest picking wild berries and other fruits as well as harvesting honey and hunting animals. But this was reversed forcing them to grow crops and keep cattle like other communities, which joined them in the forest thereby influencing their culture and lifestyle. Mzee Antony Chemengich, a member of the Sengwer community, says Embobut forest is the only home knows. He has found food, shelter and clothing in the habitat since he was born 73 years ago. “Where do we go if the Government wants us to get out of our homes,” asked the elderly man, who now lives under a tree after his house was burnt down by forest rangers. He says his forefathers were brought up and buried in the forest and if they are moved out, they would turn out to be refugees. Inhumane conditions

Since the 1970s, authorities have made repeated efforts to forcibly evict the Sengwer from the forest for resettlement in other areas. Mzee Chemengich notes that their history was being eroded and subsequent governments have failed to protect their rights and have subjected to inhumane conditions. “Our houses are being torched and property destroyed leaving us without any means of survival,” he says, and adds, “The Government found us living here. We have no other home…we will die here.” He alleges that those who were given money by the Government were outsiders. Chemengich notes that invasion of other communities in Embobut forest was the reason the Government evicted them. Benjamin Kemboi, Chemengich’s son, says their generosity has spelled doom to their survival. “We accommodated our neighbours but little did we know that one day we would be evicted from our homes,” he says. He adds the community has for a long time requested the Government to recognize Sengwer as one of the ethnic groups in Kenya.

“We are a distinct group. The Government has denied us identity as Sengwer. When carrying out population census, we are either counted as Kalenjin, Pokot, Marakwet, Keiyo, Sabaot,” says Kemboi. Away from the Sengwer, In Marioshoni, some 350km South of Embobut forest, Joseph Towett, an Ogiek, says Mau forest reminds him of honey he used to enjoy when he was young. Census Towett says: “The forest reminds me of honey. We used to be fed on bush honey but it is unfortunate our children are no longer enjoying it.” Towett, who has been leading efforts for the recognition of Ogiek, says it was painful that they had suffered because of other communities. He says the Ogiek, who according to a recent census number up to 20,000, were forced into the forest during the colonial period.

The Ogiek were only few and scattered and could not wage a resistance like the Nandi’s, who fought back the colonialists. “They had a small population and they could not resist or mount a defence,” says Towett, who is a leading figure in fighting for the community’s rights. The author of Ogiek Land Cases and Historical Injustices says since the Ogiek’s lifestyle was favored by the forest, which was rich in honey and wild animals, they settled in comfortably in the late 1800s. According to the book, the Ogiek subdivided the forest among their clans in 1856. The Ogiek Obom settled at Western Mau, Kapsangany were allocated land in Tindiret, Maasai Mau was occupied by Kaplelach and Eastern Mau went to Ipkerere and Muresionik. Kipchorgonik took parts of Western and Maasai Mau. The clans used physical features like trees, rivers and rocks to mark boundaries. Each clan lived and worked on a strip of land in the mountainous forest that was once their home. Indigenous people The Ogiek are often mistaken for the Maasai but they have no relationship other than being Nilotes. The Maasai refer to them as Dorobo, which is a derogatory term that means ‘sinful’ and ‘men without cattle’.

The United Nations has urged the Government “to ensure that the human rights of the Sengwer are fully respected, in strict compliance with international standards protecting the rights of indigenous people.” The UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People James Anaya expressed deep concern about reports that police are poised to forcibly evict Sengwer from Embobut forest. “Indigenous people shall not be forcibly relocated from their lands or territories,” Anaya said, quoting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. “No relocation shall take place without free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous people concerned.”

Source standard newspaper 31/01/2014

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Posted by on February 7, 2014 in INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES


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The Rights Of The Indigenous And Other People Threatened With Eviction From Embobut Forest:

The Kenyan Government has been engaged in persistent attempts to evict the indigenous people from their ancestral lands in Embobut forest and other people (including Marakwet families displaced by landslides and by insecurity along Kerio valley) from Embobut Forest in the Cherangany Hills.
These attempts to evict people have included burning homes and possessions as recently as May 2013 despite an interim injunction secured in the High Court against any such action. (The interim injunction was served on those same authorities on 2nd April 2013 and it is still in force until 6th of February 2014 when the case will come for mention at Eldoret – Land and Environmental Court).
The most recent attempt to move people from Embobut Forest took place when the President, Deputy President and Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, visited Embobut on November 15th 2013 and the President promised 400,000 Kenyan shillings per family to what he called the ‘Evictees’ to move out of the forest. On 12th December 2013, the Elgeyo Marakwet County Commissioner, Mr. Arthur Osiya, said that “The Evictees were given the cash and have no reason to continue staying in the forest. By January 3rd 2014, we expect all squatters out of that forest” – Saturday Nation, December 14, 2013 (page 22). The 1.1 billion Kenyan shillings were promised by the President to 2,784 families to enable them to buy land to relocate themselves to places outside the forest. 400,000 Kenyan shillings would buy the equivalent of 4 cows or one acre of land in Trans Nzoia District. It is therefore both completely inadequate for enabling families to secure their livelihoods, but more importantly people were not consulted but simply told this was happening. There has been no attempt to secure peoples free prior and informed consent to such a process, and most crucially, financial compensation may be an appropriate way of helping landslide victims and victims of electoral violence (who would not be in Embobut Forest if it wasn’t for those events) restart their lives, but it is completely wrong to seek to evict the indigenous people from their ancestral lands in the high forests of Embobut, an eviction which would remove them from the forest on which they depend for their cultural, social and physical existence.
Representations made to communities by Government, in relation to this last attempt to move them, have been far from consistent. Statements from an authoritative government figure have advised the indigenous people and other communities that they can accept the President’s money and still stay on the land where they are living. This implies that, for the indigenous communities at least, the money being given was compensation for past sufferings (e.g. for being forcefully moved from the forest to the glades, for the repeated year on year burning of their homes by the Kenya Forest Service, etc.) and is not compensation for their resettlement out of the Cherangany Hills altogether.
Community members who are relying on this statement have a legitimate expectation that they can stay. Forced eviction in such circumstances is all the more unfair, oppressive and unlawful.

The fact that the indigenous people, who have firm rights to their ancestral lands under the 2010 Constitution, are described as ‘Evictees’ or ‘Squatters’ (and so are lumped together with people who may well be living on indigenous lands as a result of being evicted from elsewhere, and who may need very different solutions to their plight including through funding to restart their lives elsewhere) highlights the discrimination they experience. These are symptoms of Kenya’s continued failure to respect and protect the indigenous rights to own, use and control their lands, territory and natural resources.
We call on the Kenyan authorities to recognize indigenous rights to their ancestral lands in line with the 2010 Constitution, to desist from burning homes and evicting families from Embobut Forest, and to not pursue an approach which seeks to give the Sengwer no choice but to accept 400,000 Kenyan Shillings per family in order to leave their homes. Instead, we ask the Kenyan authorities to carry out widespread consultations with the Sengwer and other inhabitants of Embobut Forest. Through a process of Free, Prior and Informed Consent such as that outlined below, they can find the best way to recognize Sengwer rights to their land in line with the 2010 Constitution, and also in line with current conservation best practice which recognizes ancestral communities as those best placed to secure their forest lands from encroachment and destruction, as long as they themselves have their long term rights to their lands recognized and secured.

History of the Indigenous Peoples and Other Communities in Embobut:

From research carried out by the Forest Peoples Programme in 2013, it would appear that none of the different people inhabiting Embobut Forest in the Cherangany Hills are actively seeking the displacement of others.However, the key distinction in terms of arriving at a solution to the current crisis – is that some would prefer to move if they are offered land and security elsewhere and others such as the Sengwer insist on their right to stay being recognized, even if that involves restrictions on their economic activities to protect the forest.
Some communities in Embobut Forest have arrived more recently (including those who were landslide victims,and victims of cattle rustling and or insecurity along Kerio Valley), and others are internal migrants from neighbouring groups (such as the Marakwet) who appear to have moved into the area mostly for economic reasons such as to clear land to grow potatoes to sell. The Sengwer, who have traditionally lived in the forest,were forced out of the forest to live in glades – natural clearings in the forest – by the Kenya Forest Service.
One cultural difference between the Sengwer and those other groups is that the Sengwer are a traditionally hunter-gatherer people who occupied and practiced those livelihoods both in the highlands, forests and lower slopes of the Cherangany Hills area. Gathering of forest honey is an important Sengwer livelihood activity.Their ancestors are buried in the forest, and they have sacred sites there – their traditional connection to the Cherangany forest appears to be profound and all-encompassing. A related point is that the Sengwer would like the Government of Kenya to appreciate that their traditional hunter–gatherer culture and livelihood is perfectly compatible with forest protection, which Sengwer would also like to see protected and preserved. This is one practical reason (as well as the legal ancestral land claim) why they say they should not be evicted, when the Government’s declared reason for their eviction is forest protection.
Although these Sengwer former hunter-gatherer indigenous forest people are sometimes referred to as the Cherangany indigenous people, this should not be confused with the wider population of the Cherangany Hills which includes a range of different groups, including the locally dominant Marakwet and Pokot. The Marakwet and Pokot traditional livelihood and cultural patterns are more strongly agricultural or pastoralist, however those who reside in Embobut forest can clearly claim the right to stay if they choose to do so, and if they have already, or choose to, establish livelihood and cultural patterns that protect the forest.

History of the Sengwer People
The Sengwer indigenous people are a traditionally hunter-gatherer forest people, whose ancestral lands are located in and around the forests of the Cherangany Hills, in the Rift Valley in western Kenya. Their current predicament arises from continued discrimination and marginalization, in particular from the appropriation of their ancestral lands without regard for their customary ownership rights. The Sengwer were initially forcibly displaced from the lower reaches of their territories (considered as richer lands for agricultural purposes) by the British colonial administration, but were permitted to occupy the less agriculturally fertile highland forest and moorland areas of the Cherangany Hills. These forest highland areas – initially held by the County Council as Trust Lands – were subsequently gazetted by the Government of Kenya as a national forest reserve in 1964. Forest legislation in Kenya – consistent with the increasingly out-dated ‘fortress conservation’ approach that excludes communities from living in protected areas – effectively outlawed Sengwer occupation of their ancestral lands.

Since the 1970s and throughout the past decade, the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) has repeatedly attempted to forcibly evict the Sengwer, including by regularly burning their houses, food and other possessions (e.g. in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013). The Forests Act 2005 prohibits from state forests (without license) the activities of occupying forest reserves, or erecting buildings or enclosures, cultivating, grazing, collecting honey or keeping bees, cutting and taking wood and other forest produce, and hunting in forest reserves.3 In recent years the Government of Kenya, variously through Inter-Ministerial Taskforces, the Ministry of State for Special Programmes (MSSP), KFS, and in cooperation with World Bank representatives overseeing implementation of a Natural Resources Management (NRM) Project in the Cherangany Hills, have been seeking the resettlement of Embobut Sengwer on alternative lands including in Rongai, Kipkapus and Moiben.
This cycle of harassment and eviction and the constant threat to leave their lands and resources or be forcibly resettled, continues at present – as does the associated harm caused to health (including psychological trauma), children’s education, livelihoods and culture.
Sengwer homes in Embobut Forest were burnt by KFS as recently, This took place despite a court injunction dated 26 March 2013 prohibiting such actions in Embobut Forest, a court injunction served on the relevant authorities on April 2nd 2013.6 This blatant disregard for decisions of its own court that have been made in defence of the rights protected under its own constitution, demonstrates the government’s disregard for the rights of victims of discrimination to remedy and equal protection from the law.7 Some Sengwer have been displaced from their forest lands altogether and make do on what land they can use or acquire nearby, but many Sengwer communities including those in the Embobut forest area of the Cherangany Hills’ forest reserves (Embobut Forest) have continued their occupation and maintain a close connection to their ancestral lands and forests. The situation of the Sengwer indigenous people, and the situation for many other current inhabitants of Embobut Forest, is urgent.

Why the Sengwer should be permitted to remain on their ancestral lands:
While the solution proposed seeks to address the needs of all current inhabitants of Embobut Forest, and the need to protect the forest itself, this section highlights the predicament of the Sengwer indigenous people for whom the forest is their ancestral home. At no stage have the Sengwer of Embobut been meaningfully consulted in relation to resettlement, and nor has their free, prior and informed consent been sought and obtained.

There has been no reasonable benefit offered, nor has there been a remotely adequate offer of alternative land and compensation if they were to consent to resettlement. To the contrary, the Sengwer of Embobut wish to remain on their land, obtain de jure title to that land and reparation for the harm experienced to date from forced eviction and harassment. The Sengwer also want to come to an enduring and amicable settlement with the Government of Kenya on ways that this can be achieved while also conserving the forest environment and ensuring environmental services (notably for water) for the benefit of all Kenyans.

Recognizing that hunter gatherer and pastoralist livelihoods have been practiced perfectly sustainably and the increasing evidence that community with secure rights over their land and resources are the better guardians of local ecosystems; the time is ripe for Kenya to shift to a new conservation paradigm based on recognizing land and resource rights of indigenous peoples. This is increasingly being recognized via international conservation policy initiatives, and by conservation organizations themselves such as the International Union for Nature Conservation (IUCN), for example under the auspices of the IUCN’s ‘Whakatane Mechanism’. The Whakatane mechanism was successfully piloted with the Ogiek of Mt. Elgon in 2011, but the valuable lessons learned from that process have not been translated into the draft Wildlife Bill and Policy.
Key to solving the problem is to recognize two critical shifts that have happened:
(a) At the national level – the new Constitution recognizes the rights of former hunter-gatherers such as the Sengwer to their community lands,
(b) At the international level – the ‘New Conservation Paradigm’ recognizes that conservation of forests and wildlife can only succeed if those who have sustainably used those resources for centuries are supported to continue that protection.

Given the realities on the ground in places such as Embobut, it is crucial to act in accordance with these shifts in the constitution and in conservation, even before the review of the Forest Act and the new Community Land Bill hopefully ensure that legislation reflects these realities.
Current legislation that criminalizes the presence of such people as the Sengwer in their forest lands should not take precedence over the constitution, and nor should the old exclusionary ‘Fortress Conservation’ approach take precedence over the proven success of community forest conservation (NB this is not the same as the Community Forest Association system13, it is not a system based on being compensated through alternative livelihood schemes for being excluded from the forest, but is instead a system based on making sustainable and respectful use of the forest – including, where culturally appropriate, continuing to inhabit the forest – based on establishing and adhering to community bylaws).

There are three key problems in Solving any one of them without solving the others will only lead to far greater problems over the next few years:
(a) The forests need to be protected – both to protect water supply to communities downstream, and to maintain indigenous forest for biodiversity and climate reasons
(b) People such as landslide victims and victims of electoral violence who have nowhere else to go need to be given land elsewhere to reduce the pressure on the forest and to ensure their human rights to a secure home and a future for their children
(c) The indigenous people need their right to remain on their ancestral lands to be recognized in accordance with the new constitution and modern conservation, and need the authorities to stop burning their homes; they also need to act responsibly in relation to the forest.

Solving any one of these problems in isolation will simply cause a far deeper problem that will explode within a few years. For example:
(a)Simply maintaining the exclusion of the indigenous from their forest resources and burning their homes means international attention will focus on this refusal to comply with the human rights requirements of the new constitution and modern conservation
(b)Simply degazetting the forest for everyone’s use will destroy this crucial resource,likewise simply resettling everyone against their will, will trigger huge conflicts and human rights legislation
(c)Simply allowing the Sengwer to remain without enforceable restrictions on their activities could likewise see the forest and glades destroyed, and allowing only the Sengwer to remain could be interpreted as discriminatory against others.

The solution proposed here is very simple, and is based on solid research and dialogue with the communities concerned and with similarly placed communities in the same region16. The key is to: (i) recognize the right to remain of those willing to continue living in a way which protects the forests and glades17, and (ii) resettle those who do not want to live in this way.

In practice this would mean that: (i) those willing to abide by the Sengwer sustainability bylaws (bylaws which the Sengwer community is in the process of finalizing) would have the right to remain; (ii) Those that refuse to abide by these bylaws would be supported to be resettled elsewhere.

The bylaws recently established by the Ogiek of Mt Elgon are completely consistent with the new constitution, are being presented to the County Government for approval, impose strict Conditions on the Ogiek and any other users of the forest, and have already led to the Ogiek enabling the Kenya Forest Service to arrest illegal charcoal burners and to review whether the Shamba system at Mt Elgon is encouraging the regeneration of the forest or is accelerating its destruction. Similarly the Sengwer bylaws can ensure that commercial cultivation of the glades, the cutting of indigenous trees, encroachment into the thick forest, charcoal burning and other unsustainable practices are halted with the full backing of, and enforcement by, the Sengwer themselves and by any other peoples currently living in Embobut who agree to abide by such community sustainability bylaws.

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Posted by on January 30, 2014 in INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES


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Posted by on December 10, 2013 in INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES



Pastoralists View, Neighbours Who Do Not Keep Livestock:

The term Ogiek means “the caretaker of all”. It is in reference to the community’s social and economic connection to the forest as honey gatherers. The alternative ethnonym, Dorobo, is in fact derogatory. It was given to them by their neighbours and perennial enemies, the Maasai.
“Dorobo” is an umbrella term that is found in both Kenya and Tanzania, but always in reference to small hunter-gatherer groups living next to the Maasai. It originates from the Maa phrase, “il-torobo”, which literally translates to “the ones without cattle”. The pastoralist Maasai viewed any other lifestyle as abject poverty.

Another tribe that has been referred to as Dorobo is the Sengwer ethnic group. According to tribal legend, Sengwer is the name of the father of the tribe. He had two sons, Mitia and Sirikwa. Sirikwa owned the Soi planes. He named his first son Chepkoilel. Sirikwa and Mitia’s children formed the 13 sub-tribes of the Sengwer community.

loosely translated, El Molo means “the people who eat fish” in Maasai. The full phrase is “loo molo onsikirri”, which loosely translates to “those who make a living from sources other than cattle”. In some contexts, the autoethnonym of the community is Gurapau, which means “people of the lake”. This etymology was triggered by the fact that the El Molo is different from their Cushitic cousins. The small ethnic group’s economy is almost exclusively fishing, while their cousin communities are semi-nomadic. They also rarely eat red meat, an oddity given their cousins’ preference for the delicacy.

In some contexts, the Illchamus community is referred to as the Njemps, a name given to them by colonial administrators. According to the Ilng’arua Maaraifa Centre website, Illchamus is Maasai for “people who can see into the future”. The community is made up of about 35,000 people. They are a sub-group of the Maa community and are closely related to the Samburu.

The Burji community introduced agriculture to northern Kenya. Before their arrival in the early 20th century from Ethiopia, the northern parts of Kenya were occupied by groups that were exclusively nomadic pastoralists.
Today, the Burji in Kenya are estimated to be about 15,000 people. It is actually part of a larger East Cushitic group in Ethiopia, where there are even more Burji speakers. All the groups trace their history to Liban and then to Gara Burji in Ethiopia. The Kenyan sub-group left Ethiopia as Emperor Menelik II annexed their territories.
The Burji belong to the same family as the Burji dynasty that ruled Egypt for nearly two centuries (1382-1517). Their shared name means “of the tower” in Arabic. It is in reference to the Burji dynasty’s seat of power, which was in a citadel in Cairo. The most famous ‘‘burj’’ is the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa, in Dubai.

The Endorois are perhaps the most famous of Kenya’s marginalized communities. From 1973, they were evicted from their ancestral lands around Lake Bogoria and the Mochongoi forest in Laikipia to create game reserves and conduct ruby mining. They embarked on a three-decade fight to get restitution for this violation of property rights.
When their pursuit of justice in Kenyan courts failed in 1999, the community filed a case against the Kenyan Government before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR).
The ACHPR ruled against the Kenyan Government. This was the first time that an international human rights tribunal had found a violation of the right to development. The ruling was adopted by the AU Heads of State Summit in 2010, further strengthening the community’s claim to restitution and compensation.

There is no official data on the Waata because they are not recognized as a distinct ethnic group. They are treated as a sub-unit of the Wardei, the Borana, the Mijikenda, and the Oromo despite their strong distinct dialect. The Waata’s ancestral home was the area now covered by the Tsavo Reserve and the Arabuko Sokoke forest. They now live in the periphery of the Tsavo East National Park and are dispersed in other areas around the coast.
To the coastal Bantu (Kamba and Mijikenda), the Waata people are the “Walingulu” or “meat eaters”. They are “Wasanye” or “forest dwellers/foragers” to the Swahili, “Boni” to the Somali, and meaning “people without cattle”. The Amhara know them as the “Weyto”

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Posted by on November 13, 2013 in INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES




According to African Commission Human People Rights (ACHPR 2006) there is no specific legislation regarding indigenous peoples of Kenya. However there are public policies that addresses issues to do with Land and Education among others for example the Government of Kenya has made clear its intention that ; Land issues requiring special intervention such as Historical Injustices ,Land rights of Minority and Indigenous Communities ( such as hunters and gatherers ,forest dwellers and pastoralist )and vulnerable groups will be addressed. The rights of these groups will be recognized and protected” (draft Land policy p.6)
This Ethnic Minority groups comprising about 30 distinct groups, some of which may have particularly or fully assimilated. These include Abasuba,Asagidze,Bok,Kuchchil,Bongomen,Boni,Chifundi,Gabra,Ilchamus,Digiri,Lanat,Nyala,Ogiek,Ribe,Sebei,Segenju,Sengwer,Shiranzi,Soboiga,Waata and Yiaku.

By, Monicah Yator.
Program Officer

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Posted by on October 24, 2013 in INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES