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One hundred years of solitude and sufferance

By | August 25th 2010

By Antony Gitonga

You probably haven’t heard about them, although they have been in our midst for over 100 years.

They are the Isakhakia, named after the Isaq clan in Somaliland, from whence they came.

Presently, there are over 10,000 members third and fourth generations of the Isakhakia in Kenya, but they claim they have been treated like foreigners.

Ali Farah, the Isahakia community chair expresses a point during a recent meeting in Naivasha. [PHOTOS: ANTONY GITONGA/STANDARD]

They say they have moved from the Government office to another to pursue their land and other citizenship rights.

The first group of the Isakhakia arrived in Kenya as porters, guards and gun-bearers for Hugh Cholmondeley, the 3rd Baron Delamere in 1890s.

Delamere made his first trip to Africa in 1891 on a hunting expedition in Somaliland, and where he returned every year.

In 1894, Delamere was nearly mauled by a lion, and was only saved when his Somali gun-bearer, Abdullah Ashur, leapt on the beast, giving Delamere time to retrieve his rifle.

The injured Delamere was carried to Kenya by the porters, who decided to stay on in then British protectorate.

According to Ahmed Ali Farah, the Isahakia community chairman, that was the turning point for the community.

According to ageing members of the community, they settled in the country in the late 1890s, with a huge number settling in Naivasha.

"Other members settled around Princess Elizabeth Park (now Embakasi) but were later evicted by the colonial government," says Farah.

‘Kambi’ Somali

He adds some moved to Isiolo and other towns where the popular term "Kambi Somali" (Somali camp) was coined to describe their homes.

In 1926, the community was awarded with 15,000 acres by the colonial Legislative Council (Legco).

After decades residing in Naivasha, the community was in the line of fire from the colonial Government in 1952, accused of collaborating with the Mau Mau freedom fighters.

"Our fathers were accused of assisting the Mau Mau escape from the then Naivasha prison," explains Farah.

As punishment, the British sold all the dairy cattle at Sh3 each at a public auction.

According to Ms Asha Adan, 80, she endured beatings and torture from the British army for alleged support of the Mau Mau.

The community had no reprieve; the early years of the Kenyatta Government faced Shifta insurgents, who the Isakhakia were again accused of supporting.

A third generation Isakhakia, Adan says in 1972, the Kenyatta Government accused them of being shiftas and destroyed all their houses leaving, 5,000 people homeless.

Currently living in Kabati estate in Naivasha, the granny has vivid memories of the beatings meted out on her when guards descended on their mud-walled houses.

"They came early in the morning and attacked us for no apparent reason, thus we became the first IDPs in the country."

Members of the Isahakia community in Naivasha express their feelings when they met area DC Ms Hellen Kiilu over the ownership of a piece of land which KARI claims to own. [PHOTO: /JAMES KEYI/STANDARD]

Somaliland is often lumped with Somalia, although it was an autonomous region before the unification with the rest of Somalia at independence in 1961.

It was under British rule while Italians colonised the Southern parts of the country, including Mogadishu.

Unitary Government

Somaliland has since reclaimed its autonomy after the fall of the unitary Government in Mogadishu in 1991.

"Many of us were later used to construct the current Naivasha GK Prison," Farah explains, adding that the facility "was constructed on part of our land."

A school constructed by the community, Naivasha Somali Boarding Primary in 1960, was similarly taken over by the Government and renamed Naivasha Boarding Primary School.

"We are the founders of the school and we have pictures showing our forefathers opening the institution, in the presence some British masters," Farah says.

Currently, a majority of the community members live in Kabati estate and the low cost KCC village, often associated with illicit brews and crime.

"Though we came from Somaliland, the Kenya Government recognised us but that is all we have," Farah said, adding the historical injustices against the community need addressing.

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