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Give us back our ancestral land, Ogieks tell Kenyan government

WESTERN
By Alex Wakhisi | March 23rd 2016

The Ogiek community in Mt Elgon has asked the Government to give them back their ancestral land.

The minority group vowed not to leave Chepkitale Trust Land even with the expiry of a two weeks notice to vacate the gazetted forest. They maintained they would 'die' while protecting their community land.

They noted that since 1932, they have lost their ancestral land, which was converted into Mt Elgon National Park, Mt Elgon Forest and in 2000, their last portion of land at Chepkitale was gazetted as a game reserve.

Cosmas Murunga, a member of the community, said they have been conserving the forest for decades but the Government wants to force them out of their ancestral land.

"We co-exist with wild animals. We protect them and they are like our brothers. Our culture does not allow us to cut down any tree because it is a taboo. We have been conserving the forest than the Government itself," said Murunga.

He said for years, the community has been working together with Government agencies including Kenya Forest Services and Kenya Wildlife Services to conserve the environment.

"We are going nowhere. We will remain here even if the Government burns down our houses. We will sleep under the trees because this is our ancestral land and we do not have an alternative land to relocate to. It is the forest that is on our land not our land being the forest," he said.

Another member, Fred Mateyi said they moved to Chepkitale Trust Land in 1932 when colonialists reserved it as a community land.

"We have faced several evictions, some which have been violent leading to loss of lives and property. Our houses have been burnt but there is no place we can go," said Mateyi.

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