President Uhuru Kenyatta
OPED:OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF KENYA, H.E UHURU KENYATTA
BROKEN LAND, BROKEN LIVES OF THE PASTORALIST PEOPLE IN LAIKIPIA AND SAMBURU
Dear Mr. President,
We at Cultural Survival, an international organisation that stands with indigenous communities around the world hereby write to you today in regard to the on-going land “invasion” crisis in Laikipia County.
We appreciate your government’s continued patience and commitment to facilitating peace in Northern Kenya.
Mr. President, it is with great disbelief that we are hearing how your government is tormenting the Maa speaking communities in Kenya. From Nakuru County to Laikipia, the Maasai have continued to be forcefully evicted from their ancestral land to pave way for investments and heirs of the Maasai historical land after indepence.
Mr. President, the cry of the Maa Nation has been heard far and beyond the African boarders and across global seas; unfortunately your government has turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to their cries. As you are very well aware of the situation in Laikipia where your government has in the past used brute force to evict the Samburu from Laikipia in the guise that they have invaded the land in Laikipia, you as well as many Kenyans know that the Samburu are not invaders, they have historically shared grazing areas with their fellow Maa speaking communities before the Europeans colonized Kenya.
Mr. President, there is documented evidence that what is happening is mainly because of political expediency as well as an economic move for those that had already acquired the land after independence and those that are aware of the end of some of the leases, and hence prospecting to get the land. Politically it is common knowledge that in order for your party to capture the Laikipia North Parliamentary seat come 2017, the Samburus have to be evicted. This is all the reason the only Maa speaking Member of Parliament Mathew Lempurkel is being tormented by your government.
Mr. President, being the custodian of the Kenyan Constitution, you are aware that the Constitution is clear on the rights of every Kenyan to live and fend for themselves anywhere within the boarder of the Country. You very well know that it is unconstitutional to forcefully evict Kenyans from any part of the country in the guise that they are believed to be aliens on the land that was historically theirs. Why are other non-Maasai living in peace in various counties inhabited by the Maasai or other ethnic communities? Don’t you as my president see this as a precursor for ethnic strife?
Mr. President, you are also aware that every Kenyan who has attained the age of 18 years has the right to vote. Mr. President, why are the police forcefully demanding Identification cards form the Samburu living in Laikipia? Your answer is as good as mine, this is being done to deny them an opportunity to register as voters, as well as vote come next election. Voting is a fundamental human right of every citizen who has attained the voting age.
It is still vivid in the minds of pastoralists how in 2005 the police opted to deploy a helicopter gunship against the Maasai at Oloonongot but it is not ready to employ the same machinery and zeal to intervene in the perennial crises in Laikipia, Samburu and Baringo (Ilchamus) districts. Since the Kibaki regime came to power, Maasai, Ilchamus and Samburu people have borne the brunt of government sponsored murders, rape and gross human rights violations as well atrocities by other pastoralists and non-pastoralists. This regime shall go down in history as the most brutal, discriminatory and contemptuous to Maa people!
Mr. President, further I hope you may recall that, adding to the atmosphere of fear and violence were inflammatory comments and actions from politicians. For example, on January 26, 2009, the Member of Parliament for Isiolo North, Hon. Mohamed Abdi Kuti, led a delegation of Somali, Borana, and Meru residents to the Office of the President to request that he issue arms to Kenya Police Reserves in the district to deal with the rising violence. Three hundred guns were issued to members of the Somali, Borana, and Meru ethnic groups only. This move was condemned by local political, business, and religious leaders as a partisan move to favor the Member of Parliament’s political supporters. A press statement from local leaders from a variety of parties and ethnic groups protested that the “arming of civilians allied to the said MP is arming one political camp against the opposing sides. Should you allow the same trend to prevail under your leadership that certain ethnic groups’ resident in Laikipia be protected and others persecuted?
Mr. President it is our plea that you personally take the leadership in ensuring that a lasting solution is found to this perennial political problem in Laikipia. Mr. President we know you can do it in a stroke of a pen because you did it with the Coastal communities living on the Waitiki farm. Mr. President we urge you as the Commander in Chief to reign on your t Secretary for Internal Security and Coordination of National Government, Joseph Kasaine Ole Nkaissery( whom you are aware that he was adversely mentioned in the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission Report as the commander of the military exercise during the “Lotirriri” massacre in Pokot), Mr. Kaparo ( Former Speaker of the National Assembly, and currently the Chair of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission), the police and other armed arms of the government who are using the resources meant to protect the communities to torture, maim and kill citizens of a country you are leading.
Mr. President, we fear for the lives of the Maasai that are speaking about the injustices being metes by your government upon the Maasai. The past has seen many getting killed, incarcerated, exiled, and disappearances. We are worried that your government has gaged the press and no news about the atrocities is out in the public domain. We fear that the militarization of the police force is taking Kenya into a police state which is contrary to any democratic ideals and the constitution of Kenya.
Grievancesnces about Laikipia & Samburu Counties
In the last six months, the media has been awash with stories of pastoralists invading private ranches in Laikipia as they struggle to keep their livestock alive from a deadly drought.
Your government had responded through a security operation that intended to flash out pastoralists from Laikipia. The operation specifically targeted the Samburu people and raised eye brows on the politicization of the situation by your government. This was construed as power battles for the control of Laikipia North Constituency. After major protests, your government slowed down on the operation.
Mr. President, your willingness to listen to the plight of the Samburu people during the above incident, triggered a new campaign by some of your government operatives whom we believe are being paid by white ranchers and other investors.
The campaign is a deliberate media onslaught that is branding pastoralists as “Invaders, Marauders and Criminals.” We feel that mudslinging these communities that are on the verge of a serious economic meltdown due to natural factors beyond their control is unfair. This campaign is dividing the country and portraying the pastoralists as the “other” and not a victim of drought.
Mr. President, we would like to bring to your attention that the migration of pastoralists into Laikipia is not a mindless movement. The problem boils down to land fragmentation. Large scale ranches, agriculture and protected areas have taken away or blocked access to remaining historical grazing lands, resulting in negative impacts on the pastoralist production system. Pastoralists who have traditionally dependent on access to communally-held seasonal grazing areas and water sources have been cut off thus the current spate of forceful entrance into the ranches.
Mr. President, we do not condone any form of violence by any of the parties. We seek your understanding of the fact that this pastoral system has been broken by land fragmentation, and this factor cannot be ignored in this conflict.
We must also put this in the perspective of historic land injustices meted upon the Maasai and Samburu people in Laikipia where the bulk of their land was confiscated during the colonial era. Most of this land (937,583 hectares) or 40% is currently owned by 48 individuals as commercial ranches or conservancies. These ranches and farms are fenced off and rarely provide migration routes for pastoralists. Pastoralists are limited to 13 group ranches (7.45%) in the drier northern parts of the county.
Mr. President, we are concerned that your government has continued to show disinterest in resolving historical land injustices in Laikipia or provide support to the Maasai and Samburu to cushion them against the current drought crisis. As a result, majority are becoming poorer as the land use system is not beneficial to them. Unless addressed, this crisis will continue to intensify as time goes by.
Mr. President, what is happening in Laikipia is not only a contravention of the Kenyan Constitution but an infringement of the human rights of the Samburu living in Laikipia, it is equally an infringement of international human rights statutes that guarantee right to habitat, right to peaceful existence, freedom of expression and association, and further a crime against humanity.
Mr. President, we ask you to do the following on the situation:
- Address the long due issue of historical land injustices in Laikipia by implementing the recommendations of the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission, which if implemented will address issues of historical injustices on land
- Lead a process that will guarantee pastoralists migratory routes and passage to seasonal grazing areas
- Stop the rampant police harassment, arrests and extortion from pastoralists in Laikipia. Let the rule of law take its course.
- Implement long lasting programs that will cushion pastoralist from the effects of prolonged drought and climate change.