November 13, 2009
Govt to Answer Ogiek Mau Suit
By Sam Kiplagat
Nairobi - The Ogiek Friday inched closer to getting a section of Mau Forest Complex after the government was directed to respond to a suit filed by the community more than a decade ago.
Justice Jean Gacheche directed the Attorney General to respond to the suit filed by 22 people on behalf of 5,000 others in 1997. If the response will not have been made by March next year, Justice Gacheche warned that judgment will be entered in favour of the community.
In the suit, the community alleges that the government had admitted to part of their claim through findings of a taskforce appointed by the Prime Minister Raila Odinga on the conservation of Mau Forest Complex.
The community now wants the government to consider part of the findings that recommend that they be settled in the forest but outside the critical catchments.
In an affidavit filed by Mr Joseph Kimaiyo Towett, the community says that they have filed several suits seeking to protect their land rights and means of livelihoods.
Mr Towett said that the community has been living on the Eastern part of the Mau forest even before the colonial rule. With the arrival of the British Government, the community has been suffering as a minority group, he says.
Mau complex, he said, was declared a forest reserve by the colonial government and between 1919 and 1939 when land was set aside for Africans as Trust land, none was spared for the Ogiek.
And when the ministry of Natural Resources set out to alter the boundaries of Eastern Mau in 1990's, the community moved to court opposing the move.
Eventually, other individuals were settled in the area that was hived of the forest but leaving the Ogiek with nowhere to call home.
According Mr Towett, the entire Nessuit and Marioshoni locations in East Mau and Tinet in Western South Mau, belongs to the community.
In the suit, the community also wants the government to consider the National Land Policy, which he says, recognises them as a minority group that should be protected.
The case will be heard on March 10.