Six years after the death of former powerful Cabinet minister William Ole Ntimama, some Maasai leaders have renewed calls for the return of community lands grabbed during the pre-colonial era.
Before his death in 2016, Mr Ntimama had led the fight for the restoration of Maasai land seized under controversial agreements in Nairobi, Naivasha, Molo, Nakuru, Mau Narok, Kedong, Kitet and Ndabibi.
He began the campaign in the 1990s, shortly before the eruption of ethnic clashes in parts of the former Rift Valley Province.
Leaders from Narok, Kajiado, Laikipia and Samburu last week submitted a petition to members of the historical injustices committee at the National Land Commission, which they hope will right the wrongs of the past. They cite unfair land treaties that were signed in 1904 and 1911.
They are demanding the return of all community land that was lost through conquest by the British, annexed, grabbed, stolen or ceded to outside forces.
Led by Narok Senator Ledama Ole Kina, MPs Memusi Kanchori (Kajiado central), Moitalel Ole Kenta (Narok North) and former Laikipia North MP Mathew Lempurkel, they are pushing for reparation, restitution and compensation.
They want the process to start with review of Maasai land agreements of 1904 and 1911, whose 100-year leases expired in 2004.
They want to be compensated for the 6.3 million acres that were taken away by the British in Nairobi, Nakuru, Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia, Laikipia and Nyandarua counties.
The land reportedly belonged to the community, before it was forcefully transferred to White settlers by “the colonial system, which is now the government of Kenya”.
They are also demanding an apology from the British government for the mistreatment that was meted out to the community.
The delegation also included Maasai council of elders chairman Kelena Ole Nchoe, the first Narok Constituency MP (1969-73) Moses ole Marima, and land crusader Meitamei Ololdapash.
They want the government to carry out a thorough investigation on how the community lost millions of acres before and after independence, including the vast ranches occupied by European settlers in Laikipia.
Justice for crimes
At least a dozen people have died and many others displaced in the region due to violence linked to land issues.
“This is the time to fix the crimes committed against the Maasai; we have been victims of neglect and discrimination. We know the people who own ranches in Laikipia are not just foreigners, but very powerful people in this country,” said Mr Ole Kina.
Mr Marima said the Maasai, through Loibon Olonana on August 15, 1904, were tricked into vacating Laikipia and some other parts of the Rift Valley to pave way for European settlers.
“Seven years later in 1911, another agreement was signed between the government and representatives of the Maasai community, further cementing the latter’s removal from Laikipia and other parts of Rift Valley, and it is now time for the government to compensate us of this Historical injustices,” said Mr Marima.
As NLC interrogates the issue, their verdict may also have an impact on the lives of millions of people in Nairobi and a large part of the Rift Valley.
“I assure the community and everyone else that as an independent commission, we shall look at this petition objectively and look at what is provided by the law then come out with the best solution possible after investigations and hearings,” said NLC chairman Gershom Otachi.
The bulk of the land has since changed hands several times over – sold to government and property firms – and recovering it may not be feasible.
The National Land Policy proposes legal mechanisms to facilitate review and documentation of all historical land claims to determine forms of compensation, restitution and reparations.