The frequent and endless conflicts in the Mau region and along the borders of Narok and Nakuru counties have had multiple causes, triggers and actors that date back to the colonial and post-independence regimes. Perhaps it is the intricate interests and political nature of this issue which have posited policy and practical challenges to the successive regimes from the 1930s to date. For the root cause of this conflict is attributable to the vested and contested ownerships of land which at one level manifests itself in the inter-communal animosities among the Maasai, Kipsigis, Ogiek and now Kikuyu communities occupying the expansive Mau ecosystem and its environs and between the said communities and the Government of Kenya (both at the national and county levels), as the latter tries to conserve the forest and resolve the land ownership questions. The most affected areas are Nasuet, Mariashoni, Ndoshua, Mauche among others.
Additional politics and conflicts are played in as the allocations in question somehow benefit connected leaders at different levels while others, want to either harvest political capital out of the situation or see threats and opportunities, as in reduction or increase in votes when evictions are being effected or boundaries are moved within the forest. Moreover, there has been lack of political goodwill especially when some political leaders’ distance themselves from the conflict while others are embroiled deeper into fueling the violence and conflicts in the area. Finally, there has been a failure to publish and implement the reports of government initiatives over related issues. It is on that basis that the search for the truth and possible solutions to this intricate problem has remained elusive.
For while it is believed that the Ogiek community were the original settlers in the eastern periphery of Mau Forest, there existed members of the Kikuyu community who were settled by the colonial government in the 1950s and were evicted from the forest, together with other workers from other communities, by the Moi government in 1988. However, the Ogieks were not affected by the eviction. In 1996, the government initiated a plan to provide land and titles to the Ogiek community, which paved way for other communities such as the Kipsigis, Turgen among others to acquire land through state-led allocations or purchases from the existing Ogiek owners.
In the process, there was illegal, irregular and entrenched occupation of the expansive forest which has become the basis for conflicts among the different communities, pushing for their land claims; as the government through the Kenya Forest Service, state security and administration apparatus advances evictions which have impacted on the said communities differently. There have been court actions by the different communities, striving to safeguard their land rights. For instance, there are matters initiated and canvassed by the Ogiek and Kipsigis communities.
The contention now is over the 2012 cut line that was created after the original one in 1997. This has affected the local communities in different ways both economically and politically. That means communities’ land and electoral rights have been shifted over time and space.
It has emerged that many people from the affected areas do not have any documentation of ownership of land. All these have escalated endless tensions, threats and conflicts with the latest happening between July and August 2020. Such have occasioned many human rights violations as evidenced by injuries, deaths, wanton destruction of property; enforced disappearances, disruption of livelihoods and basic services. Moreover, communities have been blocked from accessing their farms and produce. There are also complaints of excessive use of force and trumped-up charges as the state apparatus affects the evictions targeting select persons and communities. These coming in the midst of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and heavy rains in the country have created more exposures and injustices to the communities whose lives have remained fragile over time.
- CALL FOR ACTION
While we appreciate the continued interventions by the government and other stakeholders in addressing the emerging and long term issues, however, critical gaps and unresolved issues remain. It is on the basis of these considerations and our commitments to foster truth, peace and justice and uphold human rights and public interest in the conservation of the forest that we propose the following actions. THAT:
- The affected communities present an unconditional apology to the country and commit to peaceful, mutual co-existence and cessation of violence. The Government (through the provincial administration and the National Cohesion and Integration Commission) and civil society should immediately establish joint peace and justice committees and forums to foster honest conversations and durable solutions among the affected communities. We also propose the enactment of the Nakuru County Peace Bill and implementation of Nakuru County Violence Prevention Policy, especially on land issues.
- The Task Force on the Mau Forest established in October 2018to investigate and address the land rights for the minorities should present its findings and recommendations with immediate effect. There is also a need to publish and implement the report of the Task Force established by the government under the leadership of Hassan Noor in 2009 to look into the land and water catchment issues within the Mau forest.
- The government should set cut lines to isolate the land for settlement and forest through a consultative process and in consideration of all the legitimate claims of the affected communities. To that effect, the government and civil society should create an inventory of all the deserving communities within the region and provide the relevant land ownership documents.
- The Government should provide the relevant services and facilities impacted by the ongoing conflicts and evictions. Such include affordable access to health, water, education, housing and food as espoused in Article 43 of the Constitution. Communities should be allowed to access and harvest produce in their farms.
- The government should cease operations which are likely to victimize communities for this aggravates the grievances. The Office of the Public Prosecutor (ODPP) should consider dropping charges perceived to be politically motivated and preferred against the affected communities.
- The Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) and Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) should consider investigations into the atrocities allegedly committed by the state security, administration and forest apparatus during the evictions and other operations.
- The government in consultation with the civil society should develop and implement people and human rights centred guidelines for managing development induced evictions and displacements. Moreover, there should be mechanisms to trace those who have disappeared and compensate the loss of bodily integrity, lives and properties.
- The Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) should investigate and prosecute the political elite allegedly inciting and dividing communities involved in this and other delicate situations.
- To end the culture of grabbing land earmarked for communities or public utilities, the National Land Commission should repossess the land that was illegally and irregularly acquired by the undeserving elite. Other complimentary justice mechanisms should be initiated.
- The communities and state and non-state actors involved should consider conversations towards resolving the matters before courts and dealing with policy gaps which have perpetuated the conflicts and violations at hand.
FINALLY AND IN THE WORDS OF OUR NATIONAL ANTHEM: “MAY WE DWELL IN UNITY, PEACE AND LIBERTY; JUSTICE BE OUR SHIELD AND DEFENDER”.
Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC).
Mid Rift HURINET
Centre for Enhancing Democracy and Good Governance (CEDGG)
Freedom of Information Network (FOI)
Representatives from the Kipsigis, Ogiek and Kikuyu communities
Dated: Thursday, September 3, 2020