Some of the affected members of the Nandi community led by the chairman Jackson Walei who is holding some documents.

| Tom Matoke | Nation Media Group

Nandi people forced to migrate to TZ in colonial era demand compensation

They were evicted from their fertile lands by British colonialists in Nandi to pave the way for white settlers to develop the area that became the ‘White Highlands’ in the Rift Valley.

The late colonial chief Elijah Cheruiyot oversaw the issuing of “a temporary British permit” that allowed the families to enter northern Tanganyika, settling in Mara, Musoma, Bunda and Mwanza in 1951.

But even as they begrudgingly settled in Tanganyika, the families did not expect to continue living there after independence, because their lives had moved from bad to worse in their unproductive new foreign home.

Nandis forced to migrate to TZ in colonial era demand compensation

The northern area of what is now Tanzania was infertile and could not sustain their agricultural and nomadic existence. The Nandi were mainly cattle herders and they strained to feed and keep their animals safe in the tsetse fly-infested areas of Serengeti.

But 58 years after Kenya gained independence from Britain, some of the Tanganyika evictees are still stuck there, with their offspring and relatives now demanding that they return to Kenya.

Retired chief Kipstuko Koech, a descendant of the Tanganyika returnees, narrated to the Nation how at least 20,000 Nandi households in Kibos, Miwani, Chemelil, Muhoroni, Tinderet, Nandi Hills, Kaimosi, Kabwareng and Murgusi took the trip to Tanganyika with their animals.

Mzee Amon Kosgey Chumo one of the Kenyans who went to Tanzania in 1951 and as since returned to Nandi County.

“The colonial administration tricked some 20 Nandi elders in 1951 to take a tour of Tanganyika with colonial officers where they showed expansive grasslands in Tanzania that the white men misled the ignorant elders were unclaimed land. Based on this lie, they led their people to move to Tanganyika,” he said.

At the height of the cold war between Kenya and Tanzania in 1991, Tanzania’s President Julius Nyerere ordered the Tanganyika evictees out of the country.

On their return home, Kenyan authorities viewed them as strangers in their own home, the ex-chief said.

“Some of my ancestors remained aliens in modern-day Tanzania until their death after they were forcibly evicted from their lands in Nandi by white settlers and forced into an unproductive area of Tanzania,” Mr Koech said.

He added that a few - about 5,000 families of the 20,000 that had been evicted - managed to cross back to Kenya.

Show ownership

But they were not allowed to cross back to Kenya with their possessions and returned as landless paupers.

One of the returnees Philip Sigisio who is trained on how to repair bicycles.

Photo credit: Tom Matoke | Nation Media Group

Back home, they earned the name “Tanzanian returnees” and Kenyan authorities did not address their plight of being landless and homeless, leaving them as internally displaced persons in their own country.

The families settled as squatters in Nyongore, on the boundary of Kisumu and Nandi counties.

They then spread to the sisal, sugarcane and tea estates in the Nyanza sugar-belt region of Chemelil, Kimwani and ADC.

“More than 5,000 of my descendants have been living as squatters in the expansive tea, sugarcane and sisal plantations, where they live at the mercy of the land owners,” Mr Koech said.

Back home, their ancestral land had been subdivided into privately owned properties, where heavy investments in tea, sisal and sugarcane, including plantations and factories, had been established.

The land ownership regulations had changed in Kenya and community lands were all owned by the government and family lands held title deeds to show ownership.

“We had lost our homes completely. Huge plantations and factories stood where our ancestral lands used to be. We had nowhere to go and no one to complain to or turn to for assistance,’’ he said.

Some of these distressed families had to live in temporary structures on roadsides near their former homes in Nandi County, facing hostility and suspicion from their fellow countrymen, who viewed them as strangers.

“The few who sought out their Kenyan families seeking a place to live ended up being viewed as burdens by their extended families and had to move out of their relatives’ homes due to hostilities,” he said.

Kipyego Talam and some of the affected youths during the interview.

Photo credit: Tom Matoke | Nation Media Group

Elijah Kesio, a Tanzania returnee, and Elijah Kimaiyo, the coordinator of the displaced Nandi families, said the returnees have been waiting for the government through the National Land Commission (NLC) to address their plight.

Government watches in silence

Former NLC chair Muhammad Swazuri promised to resettle them on a visit to their temporary homes in March 2017.

“We are hopeful that the government will remember its promise to Tanzania returnees to resettle us. We are the remaining internally displaced persons who are still squatting in private lands and have not been considered in resettlement plans,” Mr Kimaiyo said.

Mr Kesio explained that the IDPs who lived a tough existence back in Tanzania had hoped their home government would help them. He expressed despair that the returnees continue to languish in poverty and homelessness while the government watches in silence.

Officials from the Ministry of Land and the Department of Special Programmes have often said the government was investigating historical land injustices that led to the displacement of the Tanzanian evictees. They urged the affected families to be patient as the government sought ways to solve their problem.

While at the helm of NLC, Prof Swazuri established a task force to address complaints from the affected members of the Nandi community whose land was taken away during the colonial period.

Prof Swazuri explained at the time that the government was working to ascertain the number of family members who had returned to Kenya out of the over 20,000 families that made the trip to Tanganyika.

The task force was chaired by commissioner Samuel Tororei and would listen to grievances from the affected families.

Historical land injustices

Prof Swazuri noted that recommendations from the task force would determine if the returnees should be compensated by the government for the loss of their ancestral lands to white settlers.

Since last year, top NLC officials have been visiting Chemeilil ward, where hundreds of local sugarcane farmers are demanding that the huge hectares of land under sugar plantations be returned to locals who lived as squatters.

Nandi Governor Stephen Sang has declared that under his administration no more land leases would be renewed for tea and sugar companies, saying Nandi had the highest number of squatters in Kenya because most of its fertile land was taken during British rule.

Nandi and Kericho officials prepared to sue the British government for historical land injustices.

The Nandi County Assembly allocated Sh108 million for the legal process that would seek compensation from Britain for the injustices that included forceful evictions from ancestral lands, torture, murders, detentions, and forceful transfers of populations.

Former Nandi governor Cleophas Lagat had engaged famed International Criminal Court (ICC) lawyer Karim Khan to lead the team in the case against the British. Mr Khan has since been appointed ICC prosecutor.

But Dr Lagat lost the governor’s seat in 2017 to Mr Sang, who promised to pursue the case for compensation.

Governor Sang, other governors, MPs and MCAs in Rift Valley counties were elected in the 2013 and 2018 elections on promises that they would ensure local communities get back the thousands of hectares of land under multinationals whose leases had expired.

But with one year to the 2022 General Election, land remains a major issue and no land has been returned to locals.

Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony’s administration was seeking Sh50 billion in compensation from the British government for the historical land injustices that the Kipsigis community suffered when the British forcefully acquired land in the Rift Valley.


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