Lekiji: a Village in a Wildlife Corridor
Posted on Mar 30, 2013
Conservation and Corruption - A deadly combination in Lekiji, Laikipia.
Lekiji village of central Kenya exists in a wildlife corridor between two private ranches. Lekiji village was established in the early 1960's for the workers on a white man's farm when the farmer left after Kenya's independence. The village existed peacefully until 1996 when the first court judgement to evict the village came, but the 1050 villagers have managed to stay. Eviction attempts have resulted in two villagers deaths. A ruling as of March 28th gives the villagers 45 days to leave the land.
Lekiji village is located on a 1200 acres parcel of savanna land in the heart of the Laikipia plateau in central Kenya. It is between two private wildlife ranches Mpala Research Center and Wildlife Foundation and Ol Jogi. At the confluence of the Ewaso Nyiro and Nanyuki Rivers, it is considered an important wildlife corridor between the two ranches. The community has faced eviction threats since the 1990’s. The most recent attempt by district police to evict the community resulted in the deaths of one elder man and one young man.
This and the surrounding land originally belonged to the Ilaikipiak Maasai and because of British colonialism they lost almost 80 percent of their total land. During Kenya’s independence in the early 1960s, the white farmer who occupied the land decided to give a small portion to his laborers before he went back to Britain, he left the rest of the land to his sons and to date they are still living there. The community settled at that time. The community of 1050 people is made up of many tribes most notably Maasai, Rendile, Turkana and Samburu, their only common background is they all had worked for the British farmer. They coexisted harmoniously until in the late 90s when the District Commissioner Mr. Mohamud was transferred to Laikipia District. It is believed that The District Commissioner sold the land. This lead to eviction attempts, which are unconstitutional.
The Lekiji community has battled in the courts since 1996. They lost their most recent appeal on March 28th 2013, and were given 45 days notice to vacate the land. They have already re-appealed the case several times and lost each time. The community feels their ignorance of legal issues and inability to engage lawyers due to lack of financial resources is being taken advantage of.
High levels of poverty and illiteracy are found in the village due to lack of government facilities. It is believed that the unsettled issue of land tenure is the reason for this lack of services. It is also a valuable piece of land because of its proximity to the town of Nanyuki.
The community has appealed to the private ranches to work with them as a community wildlife conservancy, which fell on deaf ears. The community is appealing to governmental organizations, non-governmental organizations and any likeminded partners to help this community in any way possible.
Contributed by: Harrison Ole kisio, Maasai peace data analyst, Kisioharry@yahoo.com, +254710387153
Confluence of the Ewaso Nyiro and Nanyuki rivers, boundary of Lekiji village