Members of the Ogiek community living in the Maasai Mau water catchment area have faulted the mode of their eviction, saying that, they, being forest conservers, are now unfairly targeted alongside the real destroyers of the forests.
The community’s members residing in the Maasai Mau Trust land, which they say is their native land according to the provisions of Section 70 of the Native Land Ordinance of 1938, say they have inhabited the area since 1933.
They say the government has been inhumanely evicting them from their native land without resettling them elsewhere or offering compensation.
Their sentiments were aired by Bishop Johnson Kiptanui, the chairman of their welfare group – Ogiek-Kipsigis Assimilation of Maasai-Mau Trust land.
According to him, so far about 2,000 members of the community have been evicted from their land and there has been no word on their compensation and resettlement.
Bishop Kiptanui says their woes began in 1977 in the form of harassments by the then regime.
The harassments, he says, have persistently escalated over the years until in 2008, when the Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga coalition administration formed a taskforce led by Hassan Nuur to make clear demarcations between Ol Bosi-Moru Forest, which belongs to the government and the community's trust land.
However, six years later, five group ranches – Sisiyan, Nkaroni, Enoosokon, Enakishomi and Reyio – which had emerged with the backing of some politicians encroached onto the trust land, taking a large portion of the 17,000ha in which the 100,000 members of the Ogiek community lived and forcing them to the peripheries.
"It is the owners of the group ranches in which some politicians from the region have vested interests who are propagating the destruction witnessed in the water catchment area today. We, as Ogiek Community, are naturally conservers of the forestlands and hardly ever engage in deforestation or dilapidating the land," said Bishop Kiptanui.
According to him, currently up to 40,000 individuals, christened “acceptees of group ranches” from neighbouring counties have been brought in and settled in the now defunct group ranches after purchasing parcels of land there.
"It is them who are not versed in forest conservation who are dilapidating the forest. But the government, in its ongoing evictions, have targeted the whole lot including us the natives of the forest most of whom have no formal education to defend ourselves," he said.
Bishop Kiptanui points out that two court cases are still ongoing to determine the extent of the boundaries of the trust land and an injunction had been issued against the Kenya Forest Service, Kenya Wildlife Service, the county government of Narok and the Director of Survey to cease the evictions at least until the cases have been heard and settled, a directive which has gone unheeded.
Richard Langat, a resident of Maasai Mau pointed out that the evictions have largely involved burning of homesteads, churches, schools and crops they grow.
"We are not against protection of forests, in fact, as our maxim, we strongly support the process. However, due to intrusion from others for their own personal interests, we now have been caught up in a scuffle that should not be ours. We have now been forced out of our ancestral land because others encroached in and embarked on destroying the forest which the government is itself trying to protect just as we did," said Bishop Kiptanui.