KERICHO, KENYA - As Kenya marks the anniversary of its independence from British colonial rule, two communities in the Great Rift Valley are asking the United Nations to investigate a colonial-era land grab. The Kipsigis and Talai communities accuse the British of collective punishment by forcefully evicting them off their land, which was turned into profitable tea farms.
Every year on December 12, Kenyans celebrate the day in 1963 their country won independence from British colonial rule.
For one man, 95-year-old Kibore Cheruiyot Ngasura there is nothing to celebrate.
Ngasura was forced out of his home in 1934. He remembers the scene to this day.
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"The day of eviction, armed men working for the British administration came and pushed us out of our homes by force, "he says. "Women whose husbands were jailed were raped. They beat everybody. It was chaotic day."
Ngasura childhood home is in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley town of Kericho, which is famous for tea farms, most of them owned by rich families and global firms.
More than 100,000 people from Kipsigis and Talai community are demanding compensation from the British government. They say British forcefully took their ancestral land more than 80 years ago.
In September, the claimants asked the United Nations to investigate.
Lawyer Joel Kemutai Bosek is one of the lawyers representing the two communities.
“Our argument is they started a form of apartheid in Kericho. And our argument is the world needs to know these things.Our argument is much as we are concerned, very bitter, and very much strongly coming out as people who are oppressed, we are also saying we are reasonable enough. And they should be reasonable,” said Bosek.
The British Foreign Office has said it would respond accordingly to any U.N. investigation.
Kenya’s land commission in February ruled, despite colonial laws to the contrary, that the British unlawfully seized the land.
Tea companies are challenging the ruling in court, though, to prevent a takeover by the county government. The ruling is expected in January.
Kericho County Governor Paul Chepkwony told VOA they are using legal means to deal with colonial injustices meted on his people.
“These people don’t want to chase away investors. This is something that I need to make very clear. But they know these investors are doing honest business but, in stolen land. And they want to discuss how they can be remedied so that they can live harmoniously with the investors,” he said.
Meanwhile, aging claimants like Ngasura only hope to live long enough to see justice - or at least, he says, to hear the British apologize.