- Two politicians have so far been killed, a woman got shot in the stomach and hundreds of people were displaced from a site at an ancestral forest of the Ogiek people in Western Kenya along the Uganda Border, where 200 of their houses were burnt to the ground.
The Ogiek, an indigenous people living mainly in Kenya's Mau Forest, are fighting to remain in their ancestral homeland. The former Kenyan government tried to force them out of the forests, allegedly to protect the environment. Also the neighbouring Nilotic Pok (or Bok) people of the Sabaot group have laid claim on what the Ogieks say is their land.
Human rights groups supporting the Ogiek people's claims say the recent attackers are believed to be from the Pok people, who also live across the border in Uganda, from where it is said the assault weapons used in the attacks at Mt Elgon derive.
According to a press release from these pro-Ogiek groups, the area at Chepyuk had been given to the Ogiek people by the previous government of Kenya, "but the land ended up being grabbed by members from the powerful and dominant group - the Pok."
But while none of the attackers has been arrested so far, the groups say that some 30 Ogiek were put in jail. The local MP John Bomet Serut, a Sabaot himself, allegedly had refused the governmental General Service Unit (GSU) to pitch camp and to restore order, because he claims that this paramilitary unit itself would worsen the situation by torturing people.
Already in 1999, the Ogiek people had filed a case to evict those they term "the grabbers" but the case didn't take off due to financial constraints on the side of the Ogiek and alleged corruption in the courts, the pro-Ogiek human rights groups say.
The displaced Ogiek community is now calling for increased Kenyan and international support, in particular "legal means of ensuring that our people are released from the police cells." Also, they required provision of food assistance and of shelter facilities.
Nevertheless, the Ogiek community still is reported to be optimistic regarding the one-year old government of President Mwai Kibaki. Last year, the commission to review Kenya's constitution had received Ogiek elders.
- That was the first time that the postcolonial Kenya Government officially recognised the existence of the Ogiek people and granted them to be heard, the pro-Ogiek groups say.
The human rights groups supporting the Ogiek people are both Kenyan and international. They include Kenya's EcoTerra, the Ogiek Welfare Council and the Kenya Land Alliance. International groups include the London-based Survival International and the Washington-based Maasai Environmental Resource Coalition.
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