Kipsigis, Talai clans fight for land compensation 60 years on

Elders from the Kipsigis community, led by Kipsigis Association secretary Joel Kimetto (left), at a past event. [Gilbert Kimutai, Standard]

The Talai and Kipsigis communities have for the last 60 years been fighting for compensation for being evicted from land occupied by multinational companies.

The communities have over the years explored various avenues, including petitioning the National Land Commission (NLC), and Senate and even filing cases in the United Kingdom (UK) to seek compensation for alleged colonial displacement.

They had their woes partly addressed in 2019 in a gazette notice by NLC following a petition by Kericho and Bomet counties on their behalf.

The Kipsigis and Talai, who are the indigenous people in Kericho County, claim they were subjected to gross violations of human rights, including unlawful killings, sexual violence, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, arbitrary detention and displacement, and violations of the rights to privacy, family life and property.

They claim they were evicted from their agricultural-rich land and forced into exile in the tsetse fly-infested Gwasi area in present-day Nyanza, through the 1901 Talai Removal Ordinance. In 1934, the Laibon Removal Ordinance mandated the detention, deportation and internal exile of the entire Talai clan from Kericho County to Gwasi.

Over 500,000 persons belonging to the Kipsigis and Talai are estimated to have been affected by the decree.

For the Talai and Kipsigis, their hopes to have back the land seem to be hitting a dead end.

NLC, in March 1, 2019 gazette notice, said the Kipsigis and Talai were victims of historic land injustices and issued several recommendations.

It recommended that the British government apologises to the Kipsigis and Talai victims, and the State acknowledges that the land should have been returned to the two communities at independence.

It recommended that the British government and the multinationals construct schools, hospitals, roads, a museum, and a university and provide services such as water or electricity to alleviate or compensate for the victims' suffering.

The British government, NLC said, should also provide direct reparations to victims, adding that the multinational companies lease land at commercial rates. The land with expired leases, NLC said, should not be renewed without the concurrence of the respective county governments.

NLC said the State should identify and acquire land for the purpose of resettling members of the Kipsigis and Talai communities.

Four years later, NLC in what appeared a confirmation of the 2019 Legal Notice in another gazette notice, ordered that all 999-year-old land leases to multinational tea companies in Kericho, Bomet, and Nandi counties be converted to 99 years.

It stated that the renewal of the land leases be withheld until the counties and the multinationals reach an agreement.

On rates, NLC recommended that the same be enhanced to benefit national and county governments.

NLC also recommended that a scholarship fund to educate Talai children be set up by multinational companies holding land in Nandi.

Multinational tea firms had, however, filed a suit at the Environment and Lands Court in Nairobi.

Kenya Tea Growers Association (KTGA) argued that NLC made its determination on the complaint without notifying them of the claims.

KTGA Chief Executive Apollo Kiarie said they were not invited to participate in any sessions between the county governments of Kericho and Bomet. The court noted that no notice was issued to the tea firms.

Justice Oscar Amugo Angote said the application met the threshold for granting the judicial review orders of certiorari and prohibition.

He quashed various recommendations by NLC issued in 2019 in a judgment delivered on April 20, 2023.

The court prohibited the State and Kericho and Bomet counties from implementing the recommendations.

The Senate claimed, in a petition by Kipsigis, Talai, and Borowo communities, that their land was taken away.

The petition claims that Unilever Tea Kenya, James Finlay Kenya, George Williamson, Sotik Tea, Sotik Highlands, Kaisugu Tea, Mau Tea, Koru, and Fort Tenan farms were grabbed from the Kipsigis.

Kipsigis association through Secretary General Joel Kimetto demanded a 100 per cent share of James Finlay instead of the 15 per cent on Monday.

Their demands follow the sale of the farm to Browns Investment.

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