Community Advocacy on Environmental and Social Justice

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania, forebearers of an ancient East Africa Empire

The Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania, forebearers of an ancient East African Empire…?

Vast areas of Kenya and Tanzania bear Maasai related names, a sign that the Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania were once the dominant community in East Africa. For instance, Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, is drawn from “Enkare Nairob”, which means “Place of cool waters” in Maasai. Mt. Kenya is “Eru Kenya”, meaning “Snow from Laikipia”. Nakuru, Kenya’s third largest city, is also a Maasai name.

Then across a vast length and breadth of about 1,000 kilometres and 800 kilometres respectively, transcending both Tanzania and Kenya, are numerous locations that have either Maasai names or Samburu names. The Samburu of Kenya are close kin of the Maasai, and the Maasai and Samburu converse with each other without much difficulty.

The Maasai/Samburu names of key locations that spread across both Tanzania and Kenya include Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa’s highest mountain, Mt. Oldonyo Lengai also in Tanzania (“Oldonyo Lengai” incidentally means “Mountain of God”, meaning that there are two “Mountains of God” in Tanzania, because the Maasai also alternately refer to Mt. Kilimanjaro as “Oldonyo Lengai”), Uasin Gishu, Olduvai Gorge, Narok, Kajiado, Nanyuki, Nyeri, Namanga, Magadi, Kiserian, Rongai in Nakuru, Rongai in Nairobi, Laikipia, Ol Moran, Transmara, Oldonyo Sabuk and Amboseli.

The distance between Olduvai Gorge in Kenya and the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania is about 1,000 kilometres, in between which are several locations with Maasai and Samburu names. The distance between Nairobi and Nakuru is 200 kilometres, while the diagonal distance between Transmara and Laikipia is about 800 kilometres. One interpretation of this can be that the Maasai reigned supreme in East Africa from about AD 1,000 to about AD 1,500, when their power, clout and influence began to gradually wane, as has indeed happened with all other Empires in history.

Indeed, it must have been the Maasai who put a stop to the epic northwards 19th century Ngoni migration from South Africa, that proceeded unhindered through Botswana, Lesotho, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi, a distance of about 3,000 kilometres, before the Ngoni migration came to an abrupt halt in Tanzania.

The Maasai, like the Greece and the Greeks, are not seemingly the mighty ancient Empire that they used to be, but they still feature prominently e.g. the first Kenyan Medical Doctor was a Maasai i.e. Dr. Jason Likimani, while the first Kenyan Veterinary Doctor, Dr. Joseph ole Tameno, was also a Maasai.

Interestingly also, independent Kenya’s founding Premier and President, Jomo Kenyatta, from Kenya’s Kikuyu tribe, also dropped his initial surname Ngengi, in favour of the name Kenyatta. “Kinyatta” is a beaded Maasai belt, which for some reason, greatly fascinated Jomo Kenyatta to the point of inspiring a change of his surname. Even Jomo Kenyatta was sufficiently awed by the heritage, legacy & legend of the Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania

Saturday, 17 January 2015


The 2010 Kenya constitution, chapter five stipulates the foundation of human rights is anchored on clean and healthy environment. Unfortunately in Tharaka- Nithi County bordering Embu County lies the snow capped Mt.Kenya Mountain second highest in Africa,located along the equator, Chuka town lies in a section of the larger Mt. Kenya forest which is known for its birds sanctuary, wildlife, splendid flora and fauna, streams of river and the century old trees, around the center of the mountain in 1997 was designated as a national park and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, since time immemorial conservation efforts have been embraced by the indigenous forest community, on the other hand government Forest Officers in charge of national park and the larger forest have been plagued by widespread corruption activities, inefficiency, political servitude, low  standards of professionalism, mass production of "bhangi"(cannabis), massive charcoal production within the forest and logging of indigenous trees has flourishing unhindered over the years.

An urgent outcry by Chuka community is last year licensing/ harvesting of about 40 acres of indigenous forest by the Kenya Forest Service to well connected cooperate entity, hundreds of  community members have severally objected to such anticipated massive forest destruction  Ironically, a  court case filed by community failed to grant sound precautionary measures against such injustice and on 18th December the court orders which had barred the giant saw milers from harvesting the trees were waived and or vacated. This left the community with only one constitutional option, physical protection of their resources. They have been camping in the forest ever since last week when 15 of the 50 people patrol night shifts were arrested. The 3000 member group has been keeping watch in turns to prevent the loggers from accessing the forest.

By Friday 9th, January the community had prior knowledge that the forest officers had embarked to their old corrupt habits of liaising with loggers at a huge pay. A section known as Gituabugi is currently being destroyed under the supervision of senior forest officers based in Chuka station.
In Mitheru forest location logging is back to normal after the orders were vacated. And now we are sure that the 5 saw millers are ready to harvest the entire region as we have information that they have purchased enough man power and equipments.

The community has vowed to do all it takes to prevent such rudimentary and barbaric actions that lead to a degradation of ancestral resources. Where does the future of our environment lie? We are calling upon well wishers, friends and those that can and care for our environment to join the Chuka community in this struggle against corrupt government agencies that care less about our environment.

By yesterday all the eighteen arrested forest defenders were released on a surety bond of  Ksh 50.000 and the 15th one took plea yesterday past 24 hrs constitutional  requirement period, this was through the intervention and efforts of area Mp Muthomi Njuki and civil society members.
They were charged with being in forest without a license.

An impromptu meeting by the entire community after their release resolved that after their release they will return back to the forest for the same purpose, filing a constitutional interpretation on the charge at a higher court , filling an appeal for the earlier matter that lifted orders of preventing loggers from cutting down forest trees in the 35 acre plot. On Sunday all members resolved to pray at Mugumo wa Nyenje(religious site) deep inside the forest and continue on hunger strike until the government will listen to them. On19th Jan 2015 afternoon friends of Atiriri Bururi and East Africa Climate Change Network will be visiting them at Magundu for solidarity.


These are some of the arrested defenders in prison and after being released on bond. Am requesting your team to accompany us to Meru for a audit public forum in the morning and in the afternoon a visit to these gallant worriers and defenders of forest.

Report by.
-Kenneth Kirimi
-Patrick Kamotho