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Trouble with Olenguruone dates back eight decades

By Hudson Gumbihi | October 15th 2021
During Mau Mau crackdown, Africans were engaged in hard forced labour in the 1950s [Courtesy]

For a long time, Olenguruone in Kuresoi of Rift Valley has remained the epicentre of tribal clashes.

The bloody fights usually erupt during heightened political activities as witnessed in 1992, 1997 and 2008.

Whenever clashes occur, several reasons are advanced to explain source of the perennial conflict whose seeds were planted in 1941 by the colonial government.

Olenguruone was the place where Kikuyu squatters  who were chased from white settler farms mounted resistance against strict colonial government regulations on land use.

The group that settled in Olenguruone was part of thousands of Kikuyus returning from settler farms where the Europeans were seizing back “their” land to expand on dairy and beef farming.

Initially, the agreement was that Africans occupy the land as tenants. In return, the Africans were allowed to cultivate and keep animals on small portions.

And since the settlers were shifting to dairy farming, they feared animals owned by squatters were a threat to theirs through spreading livestock diseases. The Africans had to go. More than 100,000 squatters were forcibly ousted.

Most of them returned to their ancestral homes in Central Kenya, but about 11,000 settled in Olenguruone, which was initially occupied by the Maasai. On their way out of the European farms, the natives were not allowed to move with their livestock – quarantine restrictions that drew more resentment against the colonists.

This anger exploded after the squatters resisted this mistreatment. The Africans thought in their new found home, they were free to do whatever they pleased and that they would be allowed to own land.

But they were mistaken. The colonialists imposed tough rules on farming, land occupancy, use and inheritance. In retaliation, the squatters rebelled and for the next nine years, maintaining heavy resistance against the whites.

The rebellion led by Samuel Koina Gitebi gained support in Nairobi and central Kenya. Gitebi mobilised funds to hire lawyers to help in fighting for their cause of freedom.

On March 22, 1947, the colonial government issued a notice to the squatters to comply or leave. Those who still owned animals had them confiscated.

Two years later, the Court of Appeal for Eastern Africa ruled against the Olenguruone squatters. Most of them had no option but move. The few that remained defiant, were forcefully evicted and taken to Yatta. 

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