OWIRO JOINT COMMUNITY FORUM
10th May 2013
This program is supported by USAID and the people of Kenya. This report was compiled by the Centre for Community Dialogue &Development (CCDD).
The meeting started at 1pm, with opening prayers from the catholic catechist Mr. Johannes Awiti. Mr. David Busienei, CCDD coordinator presided over the introductory session. He appreciated the participants for turning up on time for the important event. He further gave the participants a brief review of the previous peace forums in the region and emphasized on the serious need for peace in the area.
Mr. David Busienei introducing the session
The area chief who was also present in the meeting thanked the participants for their turn out. He went on to introduce all participants in the forum and was also thankful for the efforts CCDD was making to bring a lasting solution to conflicts in the region. He gave credit to residents in Owiro area who had been campaigning peace. He said that residence had been talking about peace since the previous meeting at Iboi SDA primary school.
Area chief giving his remarks
Rev. Rirei, the speaker for the day took the stage and briefly introduced himself. He appealed to the participants to cooperate and to raise their issues in a democratic and orderly manner. This was mainly because the forum was important in seeking solution to inter-community conflicts the region has been facing for a long time. He reminded the participants that the meeting was being done as per their request in the previous meetings.
The meeting had two sessions. The first was the introductory session while the second session, the participants were divided into two groups the Kalenjins and the Luos, who were present in the previous peace forums and they had come together in order to discuss deliberations made in earlier meetings. The second session was meant to familiarize the participants on the recommendations they had made in their peace meetings so as to seek the way forward.
Kalenjin group Luo group
Rev. Rirei the day’s speaker gave chance to representatives from both the Luo and Kalenjin communities to remind participants on recommendations made in the previous peace forum
Rev. Rirei during the session
The Kalenjins gave the following remarks:
Mr. Siron said that politics acted as a trigger to conflicts they face but they believed there are other underlying issues.
Land historical injustices
Mr. Siron said that the Rift Valley boundary had been moved from the original boundary. He claimed that the boundary was at the railway line but it is now Nyanza province. According to the Nandi’s, Chemelil, Miwani and Muhoroni regions were originally Rift valley but these places are in Nyanza province. Mr. Siron emphasized that they did not blame their neighbors ‘Luos’ for residing in the region since they are just victims of circumstances created by leaders in the government.
Names of places
The Kalenjin community claimed that names of places in the Rift valley region had been given different names from the original ones. They were not happy on this because names represented their culture and they wanted to preserve it. Examples of such places are: Nyando escarpment which they say should be the Nandi escarpment, Owiro which should be Kipsisin. They say this will erode their culture which they are working hard to preserve.
Kalenjins also complained that their Luo counterparts hate and belittle them. Kalenjin culture is being undermined by the Luo.
Harassments and insecurity
Kalenjins said that they are harassed by the Luos in the area. Insecurity is inevitable in their borders. They blamed this on election periods which trigger insecurity in the region. The Kalenjins do not have the liberty to walk around especially at night because they might be suspected as robbers. They also raised that new migrants from the Luo community come into their land harboring bad motives thus insecurity.
Inequitable resource distribution
They also complained of lack of cooperation between them and the Luo community in the area. They said that assistance from the government and NGOs does not reach them. An instance, the mosquito nets which are not given to Kalenjins in the area and the issuance of national identity cards is partially done.
Mr. Siron during the session
- Remarks from the Luo side
The Luo community at Owiro says that though the Kalenjin community complains over boundaries, they claim to have found it as it is from their fathers. They proposed that the local boundaries that had been tampered with like Owiro-Kolelach, Owiro-Kiptegat boundary can be corrected by surveyors who will visit the place and do the mapping so that exact boundary is established. The regional boundary also need to be worked on, the boundaries commission and the government should be brought on board in order to establish the right boundary and which will serve as a solution to conflicts between communities in the region.
They also complained of cattle rustling which has been rampant in the region for a long time. They said that most of the region had rugged terrain which could not be ploughed by tractors instead oxen are used. This then poses a challenge since their cattle are being stolen deliberately and this hinders their activities resulting to huge losses.
Due to the different cultural backgrounds between Kalenjins and Luos, the Luo community feels undermined especially during the month of December when Kalenjin boys go through passage rites. They are harassed and belittled by the Kalenjin women and children the Luo elders are also not respected. The Luo community blamed this on the land boundary question because Kalenjins feel the Luo are occupying their land therefore pouring all resentment to the Luo community.
Lack of access to information
The Luo community were not happy because they are not informed on what is going on in the region regarding any kind of developments in the area. They said that they were not informed when boundaries were being made and also Constituency Development Fund elections were done secretly without their knowledge yet it was important for them to get representation.
Lack of respect to Luos’ property
The Luo community felt they were not respected because the Kalenjin community graze their cattle on Luo farms. They also complained that their sugarcane farms were at times used to graze cattle that end up destroying property and they wanted this to be stopped.
Mr. Esbon Omondi during the session
Members made reactions from these issues and the following were raised
Land historical injustices
Mr. Stephen Sule said that they came to Owiro in the year 1974 from Tanzania. The farm then, belonged to a whiteman from whom they bought the land with their own money. Mr. Siron from the Kalenjin side interjected and said that the Kalenjin community knew that the Luos in the area bought the land but history of Owiro then ‘kipsisin’ is dated back in 1905 when the Nandi’s were displaced by the whites. He mentioned that the original owners of the land were Kalenjins who were displaced and became squatters in their own land later. He said that the original names to the various places in the region were originally named by the Kalenjins.
Michael Ogwang’ said that he bought the land in the year 1974 during former president Kenyatta’s reign when Owiro farm was on sale. During president Moi’s reign in year 1993, all the Luo residents in the area were gathered and told that the land rightfully belonged to them.
Joseph Oluoch Oloo further added that Owiro came into being in the year 1968 when they came back from Tanzania. He said Owiro means ‘we are going back home’, so they gave the name Owiro to the place since they were back from Tanzania to their home in Kenya. Joseph said that he came to Kenya when he was 20 years old but he could recall that when in Tanzania they formed a society in order to raise money to buy land in Kenya. They were able to raise Ksh. 2,050 and because this was not enough, they had to obtain a loan from AFC so that they could purchase land. He also added that he had to sell his 300 cattle to raise money for the land purchase which he recalls it was a tedious and a procedural process. He wanted to know how it came that Kalenjins say that they took their piece of land, he said it was better off if they were in Tanzania because it was peaceful there. A participant from the Kalenjin side asked Joseph Oluoch how they knew that there was land on sale in Kenya while they were in Tanzania. Joseph said that the land ‘Kipsisin’ was advertised in the newspapers and they opted for it since it was cheaper compared to others. Joseph emphasized that they found the land free therefore they are legal owners of the land.
Mr. Joseph Oluoch Oloo
Mr. Mutai from the Kalenjin side asked the Luo participants in the forum how come in Nandi County some places are in Nyanza province while Nandi County is in Rift valley province. He wanted the Boundaries Commission to define the boundary question clearly so that the rightful owners of the area are known. William Rotich added that Nandi’s were residents of the region even before the railway construction when they resisted and fought the British. He didn’t blame the Luos occupying the land since the case was a historical injustice.
Mr. Mutai during the session
Silvunus Osur a participant from the Luo side was glad that the Kalenjins had come to know how they became residents in Owiro. He asked them to stay peacefully with their neighbors as they seek for peace in the whole region. Johannes Awiti blamed the government for being the source of conflicts in the region because it had not solved the problem; they found themselves in since the year 1992. He said that politicians make promises they don’t fulfill and this makes the situation more difficult.
Mr. Silvunus Osur giving his remarks
Names of places
Mr. Siron was so adamant on the aspect of renaming the regions with Luo names yet he believed names to those regions represented the Kalenjin culture as it was named by their forefathers. Mr. Mutai supported this and he mentioned that the Kalenjin treasured their culture and their land which should not be given other names. Mr. Evans Osur, a resident said that it was true the place was Kipsisin when they came but the Luo gave it the name; Owiro to fit them.
Mr. William Rotich said that there is no point in time had Kalenjins from Kiptegat stolen cattle from the Luo community, he said that the suspects came from the Luo community because they are conversant with their community’s whereabouts so they give out information and end up stealing from themselves. This statement was supported by Elizabeth Cheratuk who said that Kalenjins from Kiptegat are not cattle rustlers.
Ms. Elizabeth giving her views
- The region has a rugged terrain which is impassible without good means of transport.
- Poor venue facility
The venue Owiro Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK
The venue Owiro Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK)
- Women do not wholly contribute to the debate yet they are victims of conflicts in the region.
- Lack of proper communication due to poor network in the area
Rev. Rirei asked the participants to give their opinions on what they thought is the solution to the conflicts so that peace is restored in communities within the region. They gave the following recommendations.
Joint Community Projects; Nancy Opande asked USAID and other NGOs to come in and create joint community projects where both communities will meet to carry out development activities together. Sabina Chemindil was also of the opinion that a joint community market be established to reduce cases of cattle rustling. This is because it was apparent that cattle rustling were now becoming a business and it would be easy to track down stolen cattle if a market is established in the area.
Improve infrastructure; Johannes Awiti requested for establishment of a health center because the nearest health services were found as far as Kopere centre and Nandi hills town. He said they also lacked clean water and electricity. He further called upon the community to forgive one another and learn to embrace love and unity. He asked the parents to instill Christian values to all young and old in their society to make it a better place to live in.
Joint vigilance on cattle rustling; participants advocated for joint vigilance from both communities on cattle rustling in the region. Elizabeth Cheratuk pointed out that they need to help and understand one another as neighbors. She said that there’s need to learn to forgive when they find another person’s cattle grazing on their farms by mistake. Mr. Siron asked the Luo community to investigate well by reporting to authorities on who is grazing on their farms rather than making assumptions which later harm innocent people. Joseph Oluch Oloo also pointed that the Nandi’s in the region and their relations far away collaborate to steal cattle and he emphasized that it should stop. He blamed the Kalenjin community for being discreet on who are the cattle rustlers yet they know well who the culprits of cattle rustling are.
Chiefs, Assistant chiefs and Opinion leaders regional meeting; Mr. William Rotich was of the opinion that Chiefs , their assistants and opinion leaders from the entire region should meet on their own so as to seek a lasting solution to the conflicts in the region.
Boundaries; Mr. Esbon Omondi pointed on the need for county government and the boundaries commission to review boundaries in the region since it has become the major root cause of conflict between the Kalenjins and Luos in the region.
David Busienei appreciated the participants for engaging in a peaceful dialogue which he was hopeful that through such dialogues peace will come to fruition in the region. He therefore welcomed Kenya Transition Initiative officials (KTI) who had attended the forum.
Eli Kurgat an official from KTI appreciated the participants for their cooperation in the day’s event and appealed to them to promote peace and harmony in the region in order to foster sustainable development and growth in the region. Mercy Shahale also a KTI official appreciated the participants for turning up for the event. She briefly explained about USAID, which is an organization funding peace campaigns in the region with facilitation of these peace activities done by the Centre for Community Dialogue and Development (CCDD). She also appealed to the participants to be ambassadors of peace in the region and seek for ways of developing communities.
Participants during the session
Rev. Rirei during the session Rapportuer during the session