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Mau Narok Land Returned to Maasai Community!

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Breaking News!

The court has ordered the sharing of Rose Farm (about 3000 Acres) in Mau Narok between the Maasai community and government. Under this arrangement, 1,200 acres of Mau Narok go to the Maasai and the rest to remain with government.

For those of you have been following the movement for the recovery of Mau Narok, we have exciting news! (If you want to remind yourself of the history, it can be found at http://www.maasaierc.org/land-right). The land has been returned to the community through a court order to the parties to negotiate the sharing of Mau Narok Land. The Maasai community maintains however, they should be given back the entire land as it was their ancestral land and has filed an appeal with the National Land Commission (NLC). The NLC is due to make a final ruling within the year.

What does this mean?

This means that ancestral land that has been occupied for 100 years, first by a single British settler, and then by several members of the Kenyan government practicing large-scale agro business, is once again pastureland. Cows, goats, and sheep graze upon the grasses their ancestors tasted long ago, reunited with the memory of abundance, and waiting for a future that holds the possibility of justice for the whole of the stolen land.

How did this happen? 

At the inception of the new constitution, a fresh governing body was brought into being—the Kenya Lands Commission. This commission was assigned the task of taking over all land-based matters from the courts, opening a new grounds with possible justice for the Mau Narok court case filed in 2010. Hope lives in the Commission’s mandate to visit the sites of disputed land and to make a ruling based on investigation.

In 2010, the Maasai leadership presented their case, accompanied by countless hours of research on the part of the Maasai Community with Prescott College students and faculty. In the same moment, the country was overtaken with land- based violence, as coastal indigenous communities struggled for land, and the attention of the Kenya Land Commission was focused eastward. Now the Maasai wait for the Kenya Land Commission to revisit the Mau Narok case again.

But in this time, 1,200 acres of the 3000 acres of Rose Farm were recovered!

The Rose Brothers are South African businessmen who had occupied a portion, 1200 acres, of the total 30,000 acres in dispute. As the case was being prepared, they sensed the threat of legitimate claims to the land, they quickly negotiated the sale of ‘their’ farm to the Kenyan Government. To keep the matter from being ruled on in court, the government decided that this land would be resettled by IDPs (internally displaced persons). But Maasai rejected yet another dislocation from Mau Narok and the ‘Rose Farm’ became the site where precedent would be established for the fate of the whole of the 30,000 acres.

The community fought a hard fight against outside settlement, and they won. The government settled with IDPs separately, but now wanted Mau Narok land for an agricultural research institute. A lower court ordered that the land would be shared, and 600 acres was legally given to the Maasai. Rejecting that compromise, Maasai continue to occupy and graze their livestock on 1,200 acres of the Rose Farm. The community has dedicated the land to be used collectively as a commons for grazing, rejecting the profit-driven model of large-scale agriculture and the GMO industry.

This court case has set a precedent for all indigenous land rights struggles in Kenya. The other 28,800 acres at Mau Narok remains occupied by large scale farmers, the water running south polluted by agribusiness, the people landless at its borders.  But we have seen with our own eyes wheat fields turned to pastureland.  And we ask what else is possible? The case for the rest of the land awaits resolution. We say thanks for the Maasai God, Enkai, and ask for whatever she wills to come to fruition.

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