Kenya Honey-Gathering Forest Tribe Caught in Violence

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They also became known for training hunting dogs, which have become so important to the culture that dogs are sometimes included in bridal dowry prices.

Like many of Kenya's smaller ethnic groups, most of the 20,000 Ogiek backed Odinga, who had promised to reverse what some see as years of favoritism toward the dominant Kikuyu tribe.

To the Ogiek, such promises included the assurance that profits from logging on land traditionally seen as theirs would no longer go to the government in Nairobi but would instead be given to the tribe.

Odinga also pledged to address the tribe's long-standing grievances over land and to bar members from being expelled from their territory. Shortly before the election, Odinga was made an honorary Ogiek elder and was presented with a list of goals the Ogiek hoped he would achieve.

In December's election, Kenya's incumbent President Mwai Kibaki, a Kikuyu, won a second five-year term in what international observers said was a highly flawed vote.

That sparked a burst of violence initially described as a spontaneous surge of frustration that many say reopened old fault lines between ethnic groups competing for land.

(See a photo of the clash's aftermath in early January.)

According to the February 4 statement issued by the Ogiek, militias dominated by the Kalenjin, rivals of the Kikuyu, killed an Ogiek man in the western region of the tribe's traditional territory.

"The militias represent themselves as a local group defending its own land rights, but in practice, what they have done is focus on some of the most marginalized groups to push them off the land," said Mark Lattimer, director of the London-based Minority Rights Group International.

Threatened for Decades

The Ogiek's existence has been threatened for decades. Since the early 20th century they have resisted government efforts to remove them from the Mau Forest.

The government has also logged parts of Mau, destroying the tribe's traditional terrain and replanting the land with fast-growing conifers that are useless for honey production.

Now the Ogiek say they are being targeted by Kenyans who simply want their land. When many people fled the violence after the election, Kikuyus came and either burned their homes or seized the land, tribe members say.

"So far, there is an increase [in] hunger because there is no trading, businesses are still closed, people cannot access the markets, and police are being perceived as siding with the Kikuyu," said Ogiek leader Kiplangat Cheruyot.

"We are appealing for urgent assistance, medicine, food, clothing, and blankets."

Some food has been delivered to the tribe, but the Kenya Red Cross, whose resources have been stretched by the crisis, says it has far bigger problems on its hands. Some 300,000 people are displaced around the country, and at least a thousand have been killed in the ongoing violence.

"If we're going to assist all the impoverished communities, then we'd have to do the whole of Turkana, all of Northeastern, and many other places," Kenya Red Cross chair Abbas Gulet said, referring to two of Kenya's poorest regions.

"Unless they are being displaced by the violence, we can't just give free food to everyone."

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