Land issues to ‘dominate’ BBI debate in Maasai community

Tuesday, February 4th, 2020 00:00 | By
Kajiado Governor Joseph ole Lenku and his Narok counterpart Samuel Tunai in Kajiado. Photo/PD/FILE

Land will be a central issue during the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) debate among members of the Maasai community, according to local leaders.

The two Maasai governors Joseph ole Lenku (Kajiado) and his Narok counterpart Samuel Tunai have closed ranks in support of the national unity project spear-headed by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition chief Raila Odinga.

Governor Lenku has been a constant face in the BBI meetings. 

“We want the land that was taken away from the Maasai community to be reverted to us,” said Narok North MP Koitalel Kenta.

“We also want a special status accorded to the Mau Forest, Maasai Mara and the Amboseli to be managed by the county government. There should be no more sale of Maasai land,” said the MP.

He noted: “Leaders from this region also support an expanded executive to accommodate pastoralists. We want safe seats in Cabinet for pastoralists and a constituency for Njemps.” 

Historical injustices

The MP indicated that there will be a rally at Ole Ntimama Stadium in Narok on February 21 to drum up support for the BBI.

Maasai leaders are also demanding the implementation of the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) and the Ndungu Land Commission reports.

  Pro-BBI group says that report would address historical injustices and ensure that apart from recognition, the community occupies an important position in the next government. 

The other group comprising Korei Lemein, the Narok South MP,  Gabriel Tongoyo his Narok West counterpart, Peris Tobiko and Soipan Tuya-all allied to Deputy President William Ruto, say TJRC and Ndungu Reports are important to the community than BBI which they claim is meant to expand the executive to create positions for certain individuals.

The community, which lost fertile highlands to the colonial settlers, had banked its hopes on the implementation of TJRC report in a bid to have either it returned or be compensated.

Former Prime Minister Odinga has been in the forefront in championing for the community to be compensated for the land loss through the implementation of the Ndung’u report.

Raila has since 2007 received sizeable votes in the presidential polls from the Maasai because his campaigns have been about land that they lost be reverted or for them to be compensated.

Reluctant entrant

Kenta, who has been for the report to be made public and its recommendation implemented, had earlier opposed BBI, rooting for the embrace of TJRC and Ndung’u Land Commission reports. Kenta was last week prevailed upon by the President to join the BBI campaign.

There has been disquiet among leaders how the decision to pick Lenku to head BBI campaign in Maasai land was arrived at.

According to former Kajiado Senator Moses ole Mositet, Lenku was a reluctant entrant into the BBI train.

“The Kajiado leadership was initially anti-BBI because of its association with DP. Lenku was pushed by the President to join the unity initiative,” said Mositet.

“We want the Amboseli to be reverted to the people and leadership positions in Nairobi,” said the former Senator.  

Tobiko and a group of the community leaders from Kajiado, Narok and Samburu wondered who picked the governor, claiming he is not fit for the job. Tunai who has been DP’s political associate has since last year drifted away from the Ruto’s camp.

Apart from Lenku and Ledama ole Kina, the Narok Senator, all elected Maasai leaders are on DP’s camp. Kina and nominated senator Judy Pareno—all in ODM—have firmly been Raila’s supporters.

“We are not opposed to BBI. Apart from saying it should be about solving problems that Kenyans are facing, TJRC report should first be implemented,” says Tongoyo.

The community, he says was to benefit immensely from the implementation of the report, claiming BBI report is not detailed on addressing the issue about land.

“BBI is shallow. It’s about expanded executive and not about addressing issues the community hold dear,” he says.

National unity, he says would only be achieved if historical injustices are addressed, adding that BBI should also be inclusive.

Jackson Saika, the Maasai Professionals Association chair says the community would have wholly embraced BBI if it was about addressing land issues, adding that problems bedeviling the country would be addressed when TJRC report would be implemented. 

“BBI is not as deep as TJRC. Raila made the community believe that it will address land issues. Now that he has abandoned the quest to have it implemented, the community and its leadership is confused,” said Saika.

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