Maasai leaders and technocrats on Sunday reacted angrily on media reports quoting the World Bank as having deleted their indigenous identity.
As the World Bank received the benchmark, a week ago, standards for indigenous groups around the world, this time the Maasai have been eliminated from the fold.
Standard qualifications used by the World Bank, according to The Guardian, is that indigenous people are supposed to be culturally distinct societies and communities.
The World Bank qualification also says indigenous people’s life expectancy should be up to 20 years lower than the life expectancy of non-indigenous people worldwide.
It is also said that indigenous people often face impediments to their access to natural resources, basic services, the formal economy, and justice, as well as their participation in decision making.
Seemingly, some of the richest people in Kenya are pastoralist Maasai and own thousands of acres with titles.
It is not clear if that fact played a role in the process of eliminating East Africa’s Maasai people from classified indigenous groups.
The Guardian on June 9 wrote on its headline: “World Bank deletes Maasai indigenous people identity” and the story has elicited angry reactions from the community living in Kenya and Tanzania.
Professor Rianto Mpoke, a prominent intellectual from the Kajiado Maasai, however, said he requires time to consult on the seriousness of the World Bank decision.
“This is a serious implication that will impact the livelihood of more than 2 million people in East Africa, and therefore we must take this matter with the seriousness it deserves,” said Mpoke.
Neighbours Initiative Alliance chief executive officer, Kenny Matampash, that NGO operates in pastoralist areas of Kenya said the move by the World Bank is “despicable”.
“What is going round in a reputable international Guardian Newspaper is an outrageous and unprecedented action. I term it colonial mentality coupled with capitalistic greed aimed at standardising the extinction of a people history,” said Matampash.
Matampash said the capitalistic and alien approach to privatise pastoralist lands in Kenya has led to the unprecedented and uncontrolled land sale and poor land-use policies.
He said instead of the Breton House institutions prospecting the livelihoods and possible assimilation of the indigenous people to smoothly move to another level, it is now forcing them into extinction.
Maasai May Lose Land
“We as the East African Maasai, believe that the indigenous people of the world are the best custodians and conservationists of our environment and ecosystem. They (World Bank) want them eliminated so that the rich can grab what was to be their land,” said Matampash.
He called on all the Maa elites, elected leaders, church leaders, and technocrats to condemn the Word Bank action and demand a reversal of the same.
The NGO personality said the Maasai community wants to know why there wasn’t any public participation before the alleged negative World Bank’s action.
“We are not stopping at nothing until our views have been heard. We will even approach the United Nations security council and the International Labour Organisation to help us talk sense to the WB,” said Philip Tianda, a Kajiado journalist.
Tianda said the WB is one of the most influential global institutions and a leading donor agency, and its decision will drastically change how other organisations and states will view the Maasai.
The World Bank says the land on which indigenous people of the world live and natural resources on which they depend should be inextricably linked to their identities, cultures, livelihoods as well as physical and spiritual well-being.
According to The Guardian, it is estimated that there could be 476 million members of indigenous groups worldwide, scattered in nearly 100 countries, and although they make up over 6 per cent of the global population and account for about 15 per cent of the extreme poor.
Tianda said most Maasai in Tanzania and Kenya are still advocating for the right to own land and taking them out of the group will kill their effort.
“Most of our people lack education and are yet not able to acquire land. Removing them from the group will not get the support from activism groups that operate under the Breton House Institutions,” said Tianda.