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UK government on the spot over Talai, Kipsigis historical land injustices

RIFT VALLEY
By Nikko Tanui | February 6th 2021

Dickson Sitienei narrates how members of the Talai clan were forcefully evicted from their land in Kericho and transported to Tse-Tse fly-infested Gwasii Hills in Homa Bay County. [Nikko Tanui, Standard]

Members of the Talai clan and the Kipsigis community in Kericho County on Friday narrated their frustrations in seeking justice for human rights violations during the British colonial era in the country.

In a virtual meeting organised between the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice and repatriation and the affected families, local leaders poured their frustration in trying to get justice for the affected people.

Submitted evidence

Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony narrated his personal and administration’s frustration in trying to negotiate with the United Kingdom (UK) government to settle the matter.

Chepkwony's family were among villagers who were brutally evicted by the British from Timbilil area for tea plantation now owned by Unilever Tea Company on a 99-year-lease.

"We have tried different ways of asking the British government to acknowledge the crimes that took place under third colonial rule. We have been ignored several times," he said.

The claimants’ counsels Joel Bosek and Rodney Dickson, said besides 20 victims giving oral evidence to the United Nations Special Rapporteur, they had also submitted written and video submissions of 40 other victims of the British historical injustices.

The special witnesses and victims represent the 110, 000 members of the Talai clan and the Kipsigis community who had registered for the suit against the British government.

"The United Nations Special Rapporteur will process the evidence. What will follow is the filling of a report with the UK government which will respond after 60 days," said Dickson.

Time-barred

The Queen Counsel (QC) added that the report from the UN together with that from the UK will be made public paving the way forward.

Dickson at the same time denied that the historical land suit against the British government was time-barred.

Talai clan and Kipsigis community lawyer Rodney Dickson speaks on February 5, 2021, after the virtual interview of British colonial rule victims ended. [Nikko Tanui, Standard]

"The case is certainly not time-barred under international law and before the United Nations. The fact that issues took place decades ago will not in any way interfere with the current process going on at the UN," he said.

He said they had decided to place the matter before the UN because it doesn't have" artificial restrictions" like national courts.

"There should be no restriction preventing serious crimes from being investigated even many decades after their occurrence. Serious international crimes are not time-barred. They can be prosecuted many years later," said Dickson.

Bosek said the multinational tea plantations boundaries literally divide the have-and-the-have-nots.

"On one side of the road along the Kericho-Nakuru highway, are people who are suffering because of the vicious circle of poverty and on the other side, big multi-national tea companies who are making huge profits in terms of tea sales from a land that was clearly stolen from the indigenous Kipsigis community and the Talai clan," he said.

The lawyer wondered why the country still grapples with a matter which could have taken five years to resolve after the country gained independence in 1963.

Evicted and exiled

During the closure of the four-day virtual interview, Dickson Sitienei told the (UN) Special Rapporteur Prof Fabian Salvioli, how members of the Talai clan who included his parents were evicted from their agriculture land around Kericho town and forced into exile in the Tse-Tse fly-infested Gwasii Hills in present-day Homa Bay County through the 1901 Talai Removal Ordinance.

"We are destitute in our own land. What we require is the restoration of the land that was forcefully taken away from us. Unlike other Kenyans who enjoy independence, the Colonial yoke still weighs heavily on us,” he said.

We have been fighting for our voices to be heard for many years but the British government continue to act as if it did not commit any crime against the Talai community. We will continue fighting. We hope the UN will assist us to force the British government to acknowledge what they did to us,” he added.

He said the British government’s disfranchisement was still being felt to date as the community cannot even afford to give their children a decent education.

"For the few, our children who have managed to attain good education grapple with unemployment," said Sitienei.

Members of the Talai clan live around Kericho Green Stadium, where the Grand Coalition Government allocated them small plots of the land.

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