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Ogiek People Say They Are Forgotten Victims of Kenyan Election Violence

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 attacked.

The 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 Ogiek people.

The Ogiek are writing letters to the government requesting assistance.