Yesterday, Thursday 9 July 2020, reports emerged that a section of members from the Ogiek community – a distinct ethnic group based in Kenya’s southern area of the Mau Forest – were being forcefully evicted from their homes by rogue Kenya Forest Service officers.
In photos and videos circulating online, officers from the Kenya Police and the Kenya Forest Service could be seen demolishing houses in Marioshoni and Nessuit wards of Nakuru while setting some of the structures on fire, leaving clouds of smoke visible from as far as the other side of the ridge.
Receiving reports that members of the Ogiek community, who live in the Mau forest (and this is their ancestral land), are being forcibly evicted from their homes by police officers and members of the Kenya Forest Service. pic.twitter.com/J134Hq355M— PoliceBrutalityke (@brutality_ke) July 9, 2020
Ogiek people’s homes on fire pic.twitter.com/ADhepljhdY— PoliceBrutalityke (@brutality_ke) July 9, 2020
As seen in the clip below, some who couldn’t bear facing the wrath of the rogue officers opted to stash together a few of their belongings and flee the area.
People moving their homes in a day pic.twitter.com/1ITYeeV5Tq— PoliceBrutalityke (@brutality_ke) July 9, 2020
The Ogiek, sometimes called the Okiek or Akiek are an ethnic and linguistic group based in Northern Tanzania, Southern Kenya (in the Mau Forest), and Western Kenya (in the Mount Elgon Forest).
According to the 2019 census report, the ethnic Ogiek population is at 52,596, although the number of those speaking the language was as low as 500.
The Ogiek community living within the forest has been banking on implementation of an African Court of Human rights case to solve their long-standing tussle with the government over the forest land.
The African Court, in its judgement dated May 26, 2017, found that the community was illegally evicted from their ancestral land in the water catchment tower and that their rights were violated.
The Ogiek community blames the government for dragging its feet to implement the ruling of the African court three years after it ruled in their favour.
A few weeks ago during a peace meeting with Kalenjin and Maasai communities in Njoro, Rift Valley regional commissioner George Natembeya accused some members of the Ogiek community of selling their land.
Earlier this year, however, the same Natembeya was listed among individuals with a personal interest in the Mau land after a court witness linked him to over 10,000 acres in the forest.
Johnson Taalam, testifying in February at the start of a case where more than 500 people evicted from Mau are challenging the government action, said a Ms Lilian Khaemba, who is Natembeya’s wife, owns about 10,605 acres in the water tower.
Mr Talam, who claimed to be the chairman of Enkarooni Group Ranch whose titles the government seeks to quash, said he presided over the sub-division of the land to individual parcels.
He further told the court that Enkarooni Group Ranch Secretary Joseph Kimeto Mapelo surrendered part of his land to Mr Natembeya through his wife Lilian in 2000.
Speaking on Wednesday night, area nominated MCA Benazir Busienei condemned how the evictions were being carried out, noting that the families were not given any notice prior to the invasion by the officers.
“It is unfortunate elders, children, women and the sick have been rendered homeless in an impromptu eviction. We couldn’t have resisted the process but we only wanted notice and to be told where to relocate,” Busienei said.
She added that while the government is struggling to protect the water tower, it should not subject thousands of lives, including vulnerable people, to danger without coming up with safety measures.
A section of local youth leaders is now appealing for humanitarian assistance to help vulnerable women and children who are now homeless during amidst the persistent COVID-19 pandemic.
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