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Kenyan Ogiek Leader Says He Received Death Threat

A leader of Kenya’s Ogiek people says while violence against his people has eased, he himself has received a death threat. The Ogiek live in the Mau Forest in the Rift Valley and are among East Africa’s few remaining hunter-gatherers.

Mpoiko Kobei says during the recent political violence, Ogiek homes were burned and several Ogiek were shot. He blames it on his people’s support for opposition leader Raila Odinga. Kobei spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the death threat on 12 February.

“Somebody called me and they told me they need my head …and he said in Kiswahili…’have you heard we need your head before Tuesday (19 February),’ he says. Kobei says the caller used a public phone booth to keep his identity secret.

“Then…in the same area where the Ogiek are, the same people are telling people that they need this person…right now. I’m one of the leaders of the community and I’ve been leading an NGO called the Ogiek People’s Development Program. It happened that I also became part of the ODM (Odinga’s party) movement…now that there’s been some post-election violence I realize that some people may be trying to take advantage of that to hurt my life,” he says.

He says he reported the incident to police, who eventually found a suspect and warned him not to harm him. However, he says police have offered him no special protection. “My movement is now somehow curtailed,” he says.

As for the overall violence against the Ogiek, he says, “Currently things are calm with the arrival of (AU mediator) Kofi Annan. People are now coming back to their homes because now people are foreseeing (sic) there might be some peace, though reconciliation and mediation are not yet complete. Things are not as bad as before.”

People are rebuilding their houses and recovering their animals. However, he says, “There’s still some animosity between the communities…but there is no physical fight so far.”