Dilemma of community displaced by bandits, exiled by government

Endorois elders point to land in Arabal where hundreds of families were displaced due to banditry attacks. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Mary Mursoi stood in awe as she gazed at the beauty of the green valley of Arabal from the highest point of Ngelesha sub-location in Baringo County.

Overgrown with thickets and infested with bandits with no visible structures, Mursoi claims she will walk to where her home was despite leaving a decade ago following a rise in insecurity.

Mursoi said due to insecurity, locals moved out of the area in 2012. She said the insecurity left many families destitute and rendered others orphans.

Members of the Endorois community mostly occupied Arabal. Some community members’ attempts to go back failed as insecurity persisted.

Mursoi said they have been forced to live with the loss elsewhere as internally displaced persons.

What pains her more is the fact that they might not go back. The government, she noted, seems to have colluded with the criminals to have them displaced.

“When bandits displaced us, later the National Lands Commission came and held a meeting with the community, a map was brought and we were informed part of the land had been gazetted as government land. We were shocked,” she said.

She said they did not know who allowed the gazettement at a time they were living in the camps having been displaced. Mursoi said the government has been silent and has failed to address how families affected by bandits will be resettled.

“We were displaced and expected the government to work to see us go back to our homes, a huge chunk of the land is now gone having been gazetted. The remaining part is not enough to accommodate us,” she added.

As a community, she said they objected to the gazettement of the over 33,000 acres of land which was ignored. At least 10,000 people she said signed a petition protesting the gazettement. She said in 1997 the government had started allotting the land to the community. The process, she said, stopped due to insecurity.

Return home

William Yegon a former assistant chief said they want to return to their homes. At least 3,000 people he revealed were displaced due to insecurity.

Wilson Kipsang Kipkazi, the Endorois Welfare Council Community Liaison Officer said the government in 1997 gazetted the area for adjudication and was not aware when things changed.

Kipkazi said as a community the decision to gazette part of the land as forest in 2016 is illegal.

“The government should gazette this area as community land if it does not agree with the 1997 gazettement on adjudication,” said Kipkazi.

All the Baringo leaders he revealed also wrote to the government objecting to the gazettement of the land as forest.

Documents obtained by The Standard indicate that the Ministry of Land and Settlement on April 10, 1997, declared the Ngelesha sub-location of the Mukutani location to be an adjudication section.

George Otsieno, the then-District Land Adjudication and Settlement Officer Baringo on April 16, 1997, following the declaration to adjudicate in the letter The Standard obtained appointed a 16-member adjudication committee of Ngelasha section Arabal Location-Mukutani division.

Insecurity then started and adjudication was stopped, only 105 people had been allocated land.

In a new twist, the government on March 11, 2016, gazetted part of Arabal as forest land, a decision that was received with protest from both the community and the leaders.

The community claimed they were not consulted and no public participation was carried out.

On March 3, 2016, the CS Ministry of Environment gazetted Mukutani forest covering an area of 13,195.8 hectares, disregarding all earlier contributions by the members of the public.

On March 24, 2016 MPs from Baringo he said wrote to the CS Environment objecting the gazettement. All seven MPs signed the letter.

MPs Grace Kipchoim (Baringo South-deceased), Mosses Lessonet (former Eldama Ravine), Grace Kiptui (former Woman MP), Sammy Mwaita (former Baringo Central), Asman Kamama (former Tiaty MP), Prof Hellen Sambili (former Mogotio MP) in their objection formally asked the CS to revoke the gazette notice.

The leaders noted that the land is community land held in trust by the Baringo County Government and had been developed with over 20 schools and other public facilities.

Richard Kamng’oror, the CEO of Endorois Welfare Council said when they got information that the government intended to gazette part of their land as a forest, they wrote to the National Land Commission. Their petition he said was received on November 11, 2015.

Kamng’oror said on March 30, 2016, the Governor of Baringo County wrote to the CS asking her to revoke the 2016 legal notice. On the same date, the Chairperson National Land Commission wrote to the CS asking her to revoke the Gazette Notice noting that all parties were not consulted. He said the 1997 gazette notice declaring the area an adjudication section is still in place and has never been revoked.

On May 14, 2024, the Endorois Welfare Council wrote again to the County Commissioner of Baringo County regarding the disputed gazettement of the forest. The council said the conversion of the land to a forest without considering their input was illegal.

The Council noted that the government has maintained its hard stance and even allocated 300,000 tree seedlings to be planted on 300 hectares of land during the National Tree Planting Day.

“It is speculated that there is an ongoing adjudication of the part of remaining Arabal land and intended beneficiaries are not known by the Endorois community and we humbly request your office to unearth and correct the suffering meted on the community on their ancestral land,” stated Kamng’oror in a letter to the County Commissioner.

He said the community is also objecting to the grabbing of part of the land by the Kenya Army without public participation. The community he said will continue resisting any violation of their rights.

Baringo County Commissioner Stephen Kutwa Sangolo said they have advised the community to follow due process and engage their leaders.

“The community knows the process of degazetting a forest, they should look at the law, engage their leaders, and follow due process,” he said.

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