• The petition to King Charles III accuses the colonial government of alienation of the community's ancestral land that became white settlement farms
• They say they not only lost approximately 457,633 acres of all their prime land to white settlement farmers but also their identity, culture and language
As King Charles III started his four-day visit to Kenya, the Sengwer indigenous community petitioned the UK for the injustices the colonial government subjected them to between 1895 to 1963, which persisted post-independence.
The petition to King Charles III through the UK High Commission accuses the colonial government of alienation of the community's ancestral land that became white settlement farms in the plains of Kapchepkoilel in Trans Nzoia (the whole of Cherangany subcounty; parts of Kwanza, Saboti and Kiminini subcounties); parts of Bungoma, Kakamenga and Uasin Gishu counties.
The petition is submitted and signed by Paul Kitum, chairman of Sengwer Council of Elders.
The Sengwer describe themselves as a traditional ethnic minority hunter gatherer forest indigenous people characterised by non-recognition, marginalisation, oppression, mal-representation, illiteracy, poverty, mental tortur, powerlessness and discrimination.
They say they not only lost approximately 457,633 acres of all their prime land to white settlement farmers but also their identity, culture and language, which they are trying to restore.
In this regard, the community is demanding restitution and reparation of their lost ancestral lands to the white settlers and the 100 square miles of land in Lelan.
"Forest preservation policy from 1930s to 1960s colonial government gazetted our ancestral lands and homes as government forests – Kabolet (1941), Kapkanyar, Kipteberr (1967), Sogotio (1941), Kaisungor (1941), Chemurgoi (1941), Kerer (1954), Embobut (1954), Kipkunur (1941), Torapket (1941), Lelan (1958), Cheboyit (1941).
"The Sengwer continued to live unmolested in the forests despite gazettement, but this would come back to haunt us from around the 1970s onwards, when government attempts to forcibly evict the Sengwer began, which have continued since then,” the petition reads in part.
The colonial policy on forest preservation, they argue, denied them the right to live and own their ancestral lands in the forest, destroyed their traditional lifestyles, culture, language and economy.
"In addition, it forced the Sengwer to be assimilated. To date, the Sengwer of Embobut forest have continued to be subjected to human rights violations that have seen them forcefully evicted from their ancestral lands in Kaptirbai, Kapkokv and Koropkwen glades in Embobut forests. Their houses and property destroyed," they say in the petition.
They add that the colonialists introduced cattle keeping and potato farming as a measure to change the lifestyle of the Sengwer from being hunters and gatherers and move them out of the forest.
"The British colonial government applied the physiologist strategy of killing a live frog by putting it in lukewarm water then gradually increase the temperature," they say.
They call on the British government to fund documentation, protection and preservation of Sengwer traditional economies that are in harmony with sustainable conservation and protection of forests and fragile ecosystem such as bee keeping and herbal medicine.
They also petition that the UK government funds research and documentation of Sengwer traditional forest-related knowledge that promotes conservation and customs; revitalization, documentation, protection and preservation of Sengwer language, culture and traditions; construction and equipping of Sengwer Cultural Centres in Talau (West Pokot), Kapolet (Trans Nzoia) and Tangul (Elgeyo Marakwet) and also call for the recognition and support of ancient Sengwer technology i.e iron monger in Cherangany Hills.
This is even as the Nandi elders called for the UK to return the skull of Koitalele arap Samoei, who was killed in 1905 by the colonialists. The skull is believed to be in a UK museum.
The elders also demanded the return of other stolen cultural artefacts as well as compensation for the atrocities that took place against the Nandi community during colonial rule.