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Documentary on Ogiek community launched

After  almost a century of muted struggles and refusal to sit down in the face of injustice, a documentary detailing hope and resilience among the minority Ogiek’s agitation for land rights has been launched.

The film dubbed ‘Ogiek Peoples Documentary which launched in a Nakuru hotel recently now offers Kenyan and the international community an alternative way of seeing and understanding the Indigenous Ogiek and their cultural landscapes.

The  Executive Director of Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program, Daniel Kobei  said creators of the documentary opted to turn to the electronic platform to document their culture, promote social change and to entertain and thus enter the mainstream mass media.

“For close to a century misinterpretation of Ogiek people and their culture has influenced and perpetuated misleading and broader population’s perceptions.

The documentary has been plotted to influence, teach and mentor other Indigenous people and Kenyans, share our traditional knowledge, skills and expertise across Africa and beyond. We want to demonstrate that marginalized communities are trailblazers in the Indigenous arts,” says Kobei

One of the key highlights of the film is that it places a special emphasis on the Arusha Land mark ruling of May 26th 2017.

The  African Court  ruled that kicking the indigenous Ogiek community from their forest dwellings would  amount to infringement on their rights. The court found Kenya had entered into an agreement with other African countries to ensure all persons were treated equally and their rights respected.

The court stated that Kenya was also bound by seven separate articles of the African Charter, including right to property, natural resources, development, religion, culture, and non-discrimination.

Justice Sylvain Ore  and his team sitting at the Arusha based court heard that Mau Forest had been a part of the Ogiek community ancestral land for decades, thus the Kenya Government was not justified to kick them out.

“They rely on the contested land and the forest for their livelihood which includes food,” the court heard.

Through the then Attorney General Githu Muigai, Kenya argued that the indigenous community had not eroded all the channels of settling the disputes in the country. The AG also argued that the Ogiek had changed from its customs to modern ones and thus they were a danger to the flora and fauna in the forest.

The film portrays the Ogiek as an indigenous people who have a critical role to play in safeguarding their local ecosystems and in conserving and protecting their ancestral lands and natural resources.

The  film demonstrates a relentless quest of the marginalized community to have their land rights respected and recognized.

Kobei laments that the community is yet to be furnished with recommendations of a task force appointed by the government on the way forward in implementing the Africa court’s ruling.

“The government needs to appreciate that Ogiek community trace ancestral land in Mau Forest and will remain strongly committed to ensuring the conservation of Mau. The recommendations of the task force should be made public,” said Kobei

He  says Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program in collaboration with volunteers from Forest scouts have commenced a rehabilitation program for the Logoman section of the Mau East Forest pointing out that this is a clear indication that the Ogiek People posed no threat to the Mau Forest Water tower.

“We have started rehabilitation program as a way of telling the government that we are conservators and we mean good for Mau and that we are just fighting for our Land Rights,” said Kobei.

Similar sentiments were echoed by the Director of the Indigenous Peoples of  Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC) Dr. Kanyinke Sena.

“If we really believe in our constitution then we should all team up and prompt government to implement the Arusha Landmark ruling concerning the Land rights of Ogiek People,” said Dr Kanyinke.

The ceremony was also attended by conservators, students, journalists, officials from the Museum, creative industry, Gender department, Human rights defenders and National Gender and Equality Commission was also addressed by Dr. Clement Lenashura form the Ilchamus community.

Although the decision vindicates the Ogiek peoples’ right to their ancestral lands and traditional way of life, significant obstacles remain at the domestic level to adequately enforce the Court’s judgment.

Two years on, the government of Kenya has made little tangible progress on implementation with delays in enforcing the Court’s judgment.

The term of the taskforce that was mandated to come up with report on how the government should implement the ruling came to an end on 25 October 2019 but the report is yet to be made public.

By Jane Ngugi

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