As Kenya recovers from
last December's post-election violence, the Ogiek people say they remain the
forgotten victims. Their homes were burned and members of their community were
Ogiek live in the Mau Forest in Kenya's Rift Valley and are the country's
largest forest-dwelling hunter-gatherer community.
Kiplangat Cheruyot is the program officer for the
Ogiek Peoples Development Program. From the town of Nakuru, the scene of much
of the violence, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De
Capua about reconciliation efforts with neighboring communities.
"After the post-election crisis in the country,
there was a sign of a deal between…two political parties. It brought the whole
country a unity, a kind of a solidarity that we forget the past and try to
develop the country or national development. So, the Ogiek community living in
Mau Forest are now happy about the situation because there is a power-sharing
in this grand coalition government. So, lately there haven't been skirmishes,
no more clashes. What people are doing, they are trading. They are doing
business. And there is no sign of an enmity that you can see, like what
happened during the election crisis," he says.
He adds, "Everything now is getting better. There
is a healing process going on and reconciliation process going on."
Cheruyot says Ogiek elders have been meeting with
elders of other ethnic groups to restore peace. "The Ogiek can move out of the forest
and they can buy food… And they come to find the Kikuyus moving deeper into…the
forest and try to buy firewood…and at the same time to buy some honey," he
says. The Ogiek are honey gatherers.
Despite peace and reconciliation efforts, he says
the Ogiek have not been compensated for their burned houses or destroyed
property. The Ogieks supported the opposition party, led by Raila Odinga, in
the presidential election.
"Houses were burned. In fact we have a number of
videos. We have pictures of those houses, which were burned. But so far, the
Ogiek community has not rebuilt these houses because, one, they do not have
resources to build that. And secondly, they are not part of the people who are
being counted as people who should be compensated by the government following
the post-election crisis," he says.
One reason for that, he says, is the Ogiek did
not travel to the cities to register with police as being displaced. Instead,
he says that they were hiding in the forest to escape the violence. Cheruyot
estimates about 40 houses were burned.
He says that the Kenyan government has
compensated those who were displaced and sought shelter in camps. He says that
each person received a payment of $140 each. Cheruyot says that a commission
set up to ensure people are able to return to their homes has not visited the
The Ogiek are writing letters to
the government requesting assistance.