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Will Nkama wrangles end peacefully after land demarcation?

Jeremiah Ole Risa is the author.
Jeremiah Ole Risa is the author.
Nkama group ranch turned to be a political hotbed.

BY J. OLE RISA

Nkama group ranch came into being through an Act of parliament – Land (Group Representative) Act 1968, and this later led to the demarcation of ranches.

The Land (Group Representative) Act on being assented by the late President, Jomo Kenyatta, it legalised the ownership and occupation of land by a group of people across the country and provided the legal basis for the establishment of group ranches.

Kenyan tribes, around 1904, were placed under closed reserves by the colonialists ostensibly not to associate with each other.

But President Kenyatta uplifted the colonial rules banning free movements of black Kenyans in 1970.

The Maasai people in the country were worried that once the country is opened up, their land would be invaded by other Kenyans.

This the reason why the Maasai teachers, at the time, went around sensitising their people about their big worry – land invasion.

The Maasai with their few numbers at the time owned almost half of Kenya.

Maasai Teachers

In 1957, teachers held different meetings to educate the local Maasai about this impending danger, soon after colonialism was ended in Kenya.

They advocated for subdivision of land along the railway line and other neighbouring lands with other tribes in fear of land grabbing.

This idea was rejected by the Maasai elders who were the custodian of the land.

In the 1960/61 Lancaster constitutional making, the minority tribes which formed Kenya Democratic Party (KADU) expressed fear that the dominant tribes in Kenya would take over their land as soon as independence was attained.

It became a constitutional matter hence adapted to protect pastoral land rights. Five years into independence, this Act of Parliament was enacted.

The department of Land Adjudication under the Ministry of Land and Settlement was tasked to implement the law across the Maasailand and other parts of the country.

Open land was to be demarcated into group ranches.

In Nkama Group Ranch some 322 registered members – Irmauwani of Iseuri age sect – were Ilmuran (morans) at the time.

The first chairman of the group ranch was Surupay ole Kirranto (Ole Nayanga).

The secretary was Ntaisi Ole Lekamerei Purkei, Treasurer was Parkoyiet ole Mukare while Munia ole Kipila was vice-chairman.

There was relative calm in the group ranch until 1975 while Mzee Surupay ole Kirranto retired with his committee from Nkama Group Ranch leadership.

World Bank Program

Oitesoi ole Marrao was appointed chairman and his first task was to service the loan which was borrowed in 1970 from the newly introduced Kenya Agricultural Corporation (AFC), which was the subsidiary of World Bank.

The main task was to construct cattle dips to control the spread of yellow fever largely caused by ticks.

The other was to economically empower the registered members by uplifting them financially.

To do this, many steers were bought in anticipation of fattening them to be sold at good prices to the Kenya Meat Commission.

This in the long run would benefit the group ranch members through the purchase of higher graded bulls which would improve the livestock yields and high-grade meat production.

Land adjudication was completed within three years. By 1970, Nkama group ranch was advanced a loan using the group ranch land title (Kajiado Kaputiei South 7 with 97,000 Ha).

The loan was used to purchase 800 steers and construction of five cattle dips, two ranch management offices.

Within a short time, the group ranch members saw the benefit of their livestock as yellow fever was controlled and eradicated.

Livestock grade improved a great deal. So was the sale of the steers.

While the members saw the benefits, it became a norm that dipping cows were a necessity. Everybody dipped their livestock in the newly constructed cattle dips.

Group Ranch Clan Division

Around the same time, group ranch members divided themselves into two groups. Orok-Kiteng and Odomong’i.

Four cattle dip attendants were employed by the Ministry of Agriculture to attend to dipping exercise in the group ranch.

Corruption was less in the country and monitoring fund use was minimal as opposed to now. Service delivery was carried out without much supervision.

The group ranch officials, at the time, met with members and agreed on various issues as required by law.

When the first meeting was called all members attended in anticipation that there were some handouts to be offered.

Once the subject of loan repayment was introduced each member left the meeting.

They had not thought there was some payment to be done after receiving steers, construction of cattle dips and building many ranch management houses to manage the group ranch facilities.

They all disappeared through thin air. From then on no member wanted to attend ranch meetings for fear of being requested to pay the money they took.

Members kept away because they thought their cows would be sold like during colonial times when taxes were collected through the forceful sale of their livestock.

AFC Threat

After a while, the AFC threatened to auction the group ranch land, and surprisingly members were not bothered nor understood the magnitude of threatened action.

A group of enlightened people from the ranch met and wrote a letter for the group ranch management that was later sent to AFC asking to be given time for the loan repayment.

In1990 members approached East African Portland Cement Company Ltd and asked it to purchase 450 acres of their land for purposes of using the money to offset their AFC loan.

It was anticipated that after EAPC bought the said land and loan is cleared members would start the process of subdividing their ranch into personal parcels.

Nkama group ranch was blessed with rich limestone minerals.

Meanwhile, a group of Ilkishumu age set in the ranch demanded to be registered as members. Their resolve was supported by all-time powerful Minister Stanley Shapashina Oloitiptip.

By 1981 all Ilkishumu age set in Kajiado County were registered in the group ranch as members.

To be precise, in Nkama registration was done on August 1, 1981, these groups brought to the group ranch educated young men.

Some of the members of this generation were working in big towns in the country, and hence they were exposed in various fields.

At this time, between 1978 and 1980, Matinkoy Olorapu Korruta was the chairman of the Nkama group ranch. This was before he was promoted to be assistant chief of the area.

The previous chairman, Ole Marrao, opted to be a group ranch manager than the chairman, as it was a paid job by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Production.

Korruta was promoted to be a chief in 1983 when new political re-alignment was done.

This left a leadership gap since Irmauwani did not want to give out this leadership opportunity to another age set. Kerempu ole Kaata became a beneficiary, and hence he was appointed ranch chairman.

Kaata was appointed when national politics were shaping up anew after the death of the first President, Mzee Kenyatta.

The chairman inherited a burden to pay the group ranch persisting loan.

Kaata’s brothers were registered into the group ranch. He was the firstborn and his young brothers depended on him since his father died when they were young.

Politically Charged

Nkama group ranch leadership mainly consisted of Irmauwani age set members, who were politically charged.

In1970, Jonathan ole Solitei helped a lot of them to acquire soft loans with the Kenya Meat Commission. He was serving as a livestock purchasing officer at the commission at the time.

He also helped in the pilot program with World Bank in experimental stages of introducing AFC to the rural population of Kenya.

Many farmers were given steers for fattening so that later they would be sold KMC.

It yielded profit to the livestock farmers that created good income-generating activities which changed the lives of farmers and their families.

Solitei became a household name in Nkama and Kaputiei section as a whole.

In 1969 he ventured into politics against politician Oloitiptip. He was defeated. He tried again in 1974 and was once again defeated.

Solitei, later on, supported one councilor, David Ole Sankori, and who was elected as MP by a huge margin. He kept his political ideology alive for many years, especially among Irmauwani age set.

Nkama group ranch turned to be a political hotbe – Risa

Other sections of Kajiado District feared Ilmauni. They were referred in crude terms as hot-heads because of their fearless nature on any issues, be it political or social.

Anything associated with Oloitiptip was rejected however well in development it was.

When Oloitiptip’s popularity was growing, to Nkama group ranch members, it was a non-issue to them.

In early 1980, the national government floated an idea for the Maasai to subdivide their ranch lands into individual ownership, and in Nkama this gained momentum.

In 1990 the first 450 acres of land was sold to EAPC at the cost of Sh 4.5 million.

After the land was sold, an opposition group in the ranch was created by some members who felt that the officials never did due diligence before selling part of their land.

On sensing danger, the chairman hired his young brother and close friends to foresee the transactions and subdivision of Nkama ranch land.

On October 8, 1993, the Ministry of Land and Settlement warned the chairman from engaging non-registered members. The warning fell on deaf ears.

This did not stop the group ranch officials for they were receiving support from senior government officers.

In the process, much acrimony was created as the group ranch chairman was in the hurry to subdivide the group ranch at all cost.

Court Cases

As soon as this was done the aggrieved parties went to court since his advisers could not listen to the third voices or advice.

From 1993 to 2020 there were numerous court cases, like for example;

  • Equal shares which were granted in 1994
  • Deregistered members done in 1988 to be re-registered was done 1994
  • Register left out members to be included in the register. This became controversial, for 23 individuals were identified by the group ranch officials termed them as orphans and should be given 50 acres while 200 acres a located to “fully” registered members.

A majority of those cases, even those the group ranch took to the court of appeal, favoured the complainants

They cared less for all cases were paid by the group ranch through many acres of land sold some with no blessing of other members.

The chairman of the group ranch became the most feared personality in the group ranch.

Some members even sorted to marry off their daughters to his sons. What he said became unquestionable law.

Every of the 519 registered members each fought to earn his ear or attention.

Fear phobia was created in the 90s and early 2000 that anybody who dared to oppose his directives was relocated to far places from town and in a hostile environment on the dry area.

He could laudably state; “If you don’t toe my line I shall allocate you Enkop Enkrulee” – meaning Kanga prone area – which was lonely and too dry.

Indeed he did for his worst critics but surprisingly those neglected areas around Eselenkei later turned out to be the most fertile land as the water table miraculously emerged to surface and people started farming cash crops.

Besides, a tarmac road was constructed from Isara, Mashuuru to Kajiado, so is electricity. Nature brought modernity closer to the people unexpectedly.

These people, who were once earmarked to be punished, are now the well-settled residents in Nkama.

All the 519 registered members are rushing to Eselenkei shopping centre to seek quarter plots to do business.

The land which was considered unproductive in the yesteryears has generated value. Those entrusted with the group leadership could easily sell for much money now.

The government system which was supposed to monitor land cases seems to be diminishing. Those officers who were responsible are quickly compromised and given handouts to soften their stands on many issues some of them enjoined in whatever form of looting to enrich themselves.

Those who were aggrieved rushed to courts. Court cases are so expensive.

Political representation in Maasailand and Kenya, in general, has been urbanised and politicians spend so much time in towns attending many soft issues until general elections are called.

Making one wonder, would Nkama group ranch end up peacefully after 52 years in operation?

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