Olekina: I’m a radical rights defender, not a tribal warlord

“I am an extremist for freedom and liberty and radical for the gentles’”

 That was Narok Senator Ledama Olekina (pictured) in an interview with Spice FM this morning.

During the morning talk show Situation Room hosted by Charles Muga, Eric Latiff and Ndu Odoh, Olekina explains his utterances during the Saturday’s Building Bridges Initiative rally in Narok on Saturday.

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The youthful senator stirred the audience when he said that the Maa people had been sidelined and their plight needed to be addressed.

Olekina called on the BBI steering committee to solve the land issues in the Maasai-dominated areas such as Narok, so that the local people could maintain a steady income.

“On matters of food security, what will our people eat if you take our land? They must remain as agricultural land, use legitimate process if you want to subdivide them,” said Olekina.

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“So long as I live, I will pursue justice for these people who I represent,” he said.

His utterances, which had already lit debate in social media got the backing of Kakamega Senator Cleopas Malala and Suna East Member of Parliament Junet Mohammed. Malala, for instance, said that Maasai people needed to have a chance to produce more leaders in their areas for inclusivity.

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“If we Luhyas in Western Kenya lead our people, and it happens in other communities as well, why don’t the Maasai people be given the opportunity to produce their leaders? It is not fair to fight for their few seats,” said Malala.

Their statements ignited even more dissent especially from leaders drawn from North Rift areas.

War of words

Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony yesterday lashed at Mr Olekina’s sentiments.

Chepkwony said that even though the plight of the Maasai was an issue of concern to be addressed, it would not be a wise move to violate the rights of legal landowners.

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He said that Olekina’s sentiments amounted to warmongering.

“We call upon the president to intervene as the trend is leading the country in the wrong direction,” he said.

Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui also added his voice terming the leaders’ statements at the BBI meeting as retrogressive.

“Utterances attributed to a section of leaders during the Narok BBI meeting in relation to non-indigenous land owners and reclaiming land across three counties were ill-advised,” said Kinyanjui.

But, Senator Olekina remained unfazed and said that he was being misunderstood.

He said he was fighting for the rights of his constituents whom he described as ‘children of a lesser god.’

He said: “BBI has given us an opportunity to come out and air our problems. If people are not willing to handle the truth when we say ‘this is our problem’ then they don’t live in the 21st century.”

Narok Senator Ledama Ole Kina, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu and Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana at Narok Stadium during BBI meeting in Narok. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Clearing the air

While explaining his utterances, which have been considered to be inciting, Olekina said that he was rather championing for re-look of land policy and not barring non-locals from settling in Maasai regions.

He said that contrary to how his critics perceive him, he is not against any particular community.

 “I have no problem with the Kipsigis in fact I have eight people from Kipsigis community working in my farm,” he said.

He argued that non-locals were buying land meant for agriculture, subdividing it and selling the same to make huge profits. For example, he said that in interior places, some people could buy land for as low as Sh70,000 per acre then they subdivide and sell for at least Sh350,000 per acre.

Olekina said that the practice was denying locals economic progress the subdivided land cannot accommodate a huge population.

He also argued that pastoralists ended up restricted they cannot move to seek for pasture.

“If you want 20 acres, use it to grow food so that we can buy it from you,” he stated.

He accused Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony and his Senator Aaron Cheruiyot of applying double standards in handling issues.

“Those people who are still in their tribal cocoons keep pointing fingers at me. Why should a governor of Kericho call a press conference and say this guy is a tribal warlord?” he posed.

“The big communities do not want to hear about inclusivity if it touches them. But as long as it doesn’t touch them, they are ok.”

He accused a section of North Rift leaders, whom he did not name, of hypocrisy. He claimed that same leaders relentlessly fought for one of their own to be installed as the vice chancellor of Moi University, but conversely, pointed fingers at him.

“I am not fighting the other tribes…They were up in arms fighting for one of them to be the vice-chancellor at the university,” he stated.

Supporting Sen Olekina on the land policy question was a former Permanent Secretary who also vied for the Presidency in 2013 Prof Joseph Ole Kiyiapi.

Prof Kiyiapi said Ole Kina “is being criticised for not being politically correct at JKLive but in fact, he provided deep insights of sentiments at core of tribalism in Kenya. True national cohesion must be based on the deeply ingrained culture of inclusivity and integration programs,” he tweeted on February 21.

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