BBI should address land injustices, Maa communities say

Wednesday March 18 2020
Maa leaders

ODM leader Raila Odinga (in suit) with Kajiado Governor Joseph Ole Lenku (second left), Narok Governor Samuel Tunai (right) and Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina at Maasai Mara University on February 21, 2020. PHOTO | GEORGE SAYAGIE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By GEORGE SAYAGIE

The Maa communities want the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) to correct historical injustices, secure their land rights, cultural heritage and natural resources, and promote education for economic growth.

On Friday, hundreds of delegates met at Maasai Mara University in Narok ahead of today’s BBI rally and said the final report should correct the wrongs wrought on them by many years of marginalisation.

The meeting, convened by Kajiado County Governor Joseph Ole Lenku and his Narok counterpart Samuel Tunai, was attended by 15 national legislators and over 100 ward representatives and grassroots leaders.

Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader Raila Odinga, who attended the session, acknowledged that the communities had been marginalised for a long time and BBI was an opportunity to present solutions to the problem.

“We agreed with President Uhuru Kenyatta that we will address these problems once and for all,” he said. He added that one of the issues he had discussed with the President was a solution to the controversial ownership of Kedong Ranch, which stretches over Kajiado, Narok and Nakuru counties.

“The President is keen on solving that land matter. There will be no Maasais who will be disinherited of their ranches. They have a right to that land because it belonged to them,” said Mr Odinga.

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Before the ODM leader arrived at the function, Narok Deputy Governor Evalyn Aruasa, Emurua Dikirr MP Johana Ng’eno and some MCAs had walked out of the meeting protesting what they termed as ethnic profiling.

Ms Aruasa led the walkout after some speakers attacked Ololunga MCA Jefferson Langat, saying he should not have been there in the first place.

In the resolutions passed by delegates, and read by Mr Lenku, the Maa communities said they would be seeking compensation for land lost to ranchers and that irregularly acquired from them.

“We want the land that was taken away from the Maasai to be returned to us. We also want a special status accorded to the Mau Forest, Maasai Mara and the Amboseli parks to be managed by the county governments. There should be no more sale of Maasai land,” said Mr Lenku.

He added: “Leaders from this region also support an expanded Executive to accommodate pastoralists. We want seats in the Cabinet for pastoralists and a constituency for the Njemps”.

The leaders also want the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) and the Ndung’u Land Commission reports implemented, saying this will help to address historical injustices and ensure that apart from recognition, the community occupies an important position in the next government.

MPs Korei Lemein (Narok South) Gabriel Tongoyo (Narok West), Peris Tobiko (Kajiado East) and Soipan Tuya (Narok woman rep), who are all allied to Deputy President William Ruto, said the TJRC and Ndungu reports are more important to the community than BBI, which they claim is meant to expand the Executive to create positions for some individuals.

The community, which lost tracts of land to colonial settlers, had banked on the implementation of the TJRC report to either have it returned or be compensated.

Narok North MP Moitalel Ole Kenta, who has called for the report to be made public and its recommendations implemented, had earlier opposed BBI but was last week prevailed upon by the President to join the BBI campaign.

Meanwhile, the BBI caravan will head to Garissa on Sunday for a rally at Garissa Primary School.

Deputy Governor Abdi Dagane said security had been beefed up, even as some youth plan to protest against the withdrawal of non-local teachers from the region. Governor Ali Korane warned residents against linking the teacher crisis to the BBI rally.

 “BBI is a national event. We expect Garissa and North Eastern people in general to be part of it,” he said.

Additional reporting by Farhiya Hussein.