Britain ready to engage Maasai, says envoy

Maasai morans with their livestock, 1960s. [File, Standard]

British High Commissioner to Kenya Neil Wiga says Britain is ready to engage the Maasai over its bitter colonial past.

He said there is a long and difficult history between his country and the community emanating from historical injustice claims based on a series of events that consist of Maasai-British agreements of 1904 and 1911 which were done without the community’s proper representation and consent.

The envoy said he would continue to dialogue with the community to seek a solution. The bitter history resulted in the dispossession of community ancestral lands, displacement of indigenous settlers, severe economic challenges and disintegration of their cultural heritage.

“We have spoken with Narok Governor Patrick ole Ntutu and his Kajiado counterpart Joseph ole Lenku, the council of elders and religious leaders about the past difficult history between my country and the Maasai community and we will continue with the dialogue,” said Wigan.

“Some of this history is difficult and I thank Archbishop Jackson ole Sapit for bringing the Maasai council of elders to my house in Nairobi so that they would talk to me on this history and some of the suffering this community underwent,” he said.

Speaking during the Maasai Council of Elders national consultative meeting at the home of Kelena ole Nchoe at Naisoya village in Narok North, the envoy said his government will continue with the dialogue in a friendly, respectful and open manner.

Apart from the historical injustices, he said the talks would also delve into present and future social and economic matters to keep the relationship growing.

“Today, I will go back to Nairobi and see what my government can do more for the Maasai community in all their counties, whether it is education, welfare, looking after people who have been affected by floods or drought, we will see what we can do,” said the envoy.

British High Commissioner to Kenya Neil Wigan during a Maasai Council of elders consultative meeting in Narok. [George Sayagie, Standard]

He hailed the community for being great guardians of nature, landscape and natural resources and promised to continue helping them in the same role and make sure they benefit from tourism, livelihoods and opportunities that come along with conserving nature. “We will look particularly on issues like the Maasai Mau forest where Her Majesty the late Queen and the King had adopted the commonwealth canopy and see what we can do as we continue this relationship,” he added.

Some of the atrocities the Maasai still claim the UK government has not addressed include the 1904 forceful eviction of the defeated Maasai from their fertile grazing land of the Rift Valley that saw them to the southern reserves in Narok.

It was agreed that the Maasai would vacate the entire Rift Valley for the government to use it for European settlement. In return, the Maasai would migrate to two new settlements.

Mzee Kelena ole Nchoe, the council chairman said their concerns are not limited to the forceful eviction, loss of lives and livelihood, or separation of clans and families.

He said the injustices ranged from forceful Samburu eviction from Laikipia African Reserve in 1920 to the lower lands, deportation and disappearance of the Samburu leaders in 1934 and killing of those who resisted eviction.

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“The Kedong massacre of 1895 forced the removal of the Samburu from Laikipia Africa reserve to the lower land which denies them the best grazing land,” he said.

Governor Ntutu said the matter is one of the agendas why the Maa delegation from Kajiado, Samburu, and Narok counties held a consultative meeting.