Marginalized and minority communities in Kenya have launched a national caucus movement which will be a united platform to advocate for special recognition by the government and other non-state actors.
The National Caucus for Marginalized and Minority Communities will strive to give the marginalized communities a voice, particularly at the policy-making level where the myriad of challenges affecting them could be effectively addressed.
Speaking in Kasigau in Voi sub-county on Monday during the official unveiling of the Taita-Taveta Chapter, Mr. Amos Ole Mpaka, the National Patron of Marginalized Communities, said the launch marked the beginning of a new dawn for all minorities in Kenya.
He added that the movement would ensure all issues of marginalization were adequately dealt with.
The meeting was attended by representatives from Bungoma, Marsabit, Garrisa, Mt. Elgon and Baringo counties.
Mr. Ole Mpaka added that minority communities had to unite and forge ahead as one group as most of the issues affecting them were similar.
“This caucus will be the vehicle to bring all marginalized communities on board. We will engage the government as one and our issues will be looked into with the seriousness they deserve,” he said.
He also noted that the term minority was only applicable when each of the marginalized communities stood separately from others.
The patron said if all minority communities joined forces, their combined numbers would be a formidable force that could have significant impact in political and policy decisions.
“You are only a minority because you stand alone. If all marginalized groups come together, they have numbers to make things move,” he explained.
Amongst the issues the caucus wants addressed is equitable distribution of resources. This includes setting up a special fund for marginalized communities.
They also want the government to allocate a certain percentage of jobs and appointments for people from marginalized communities.
The Voi meeting was organized by the Zome; the Kasigau Council of Elders. The council has been spearheading and pushing for compensation from British Government over the forceful displacement and torture of Kasigau community in 1915 during the First World War.
Led by the council’s Vice Chair Mzee Philip Mwadime, the elders said they had taken the initiative to bring together the four marginalized communities in the county to speak with one voice owing to continued neglect by the county government.
The four marginalized communities currently living in the county are Kasigau, Sagala, Wartha and Pare. The former three are scattered in various villages in Voi sub-county while the latter lives in Taveta sub-county at the border of Kenya and Tanzania.
Mzee Mwadime predicted that the initiative of forming the caucus would bring tangible results to hundreds of residents who have remained marginalized for decades.
He added that historical injustices including land alienation, forced displacement of communities and economic emasculation would only be addressed once all communities came together to agitate for their rights.
“We will only make meaningful progress once we come together. We will speak with one voice and trigger change,” he said.
According to Ole Mpaka, there were 76 marginalized communities living in Kenya including the Ogiek, Boni, Nubi, Sengwer and Ilchamus.
In Taita-Taveta County, the Kasigau suffered displacement and land dispossession in the hands of British Soldiers during World War 1. They were exiled to Malindi where they stayed until 1919. They would only return to their ancestral land in smaller numbers as the displacement shattered their communal ties.
“The community was cohesive and united. The displacement took that away. Some were left in Malindi while others never returned. Our people died there,” said Mzee Mwadime.
Mr. Suleiman Khajia, an elder from Pare community, said his community has suffered for decades for lack of official recognition by regimes since independence.
He noted that they were viewed as Tanzanians; a perception that has made them be treated unfairly and with a lot of hostility by leaders.
“We have been regarded as Tanzanians more than Kenyans. This makes it hard for us even to get Identity Cards. There are some who are still struggling to get IDs because they are not regarded as Kenyans,” he explained.
Elders from the Wartha community also narrated the challenges the community has gone through since they were displaced from Tsavo National Park in the 1940s.
Mr. Amon Kazungu, a Wartha elder, said the community was forcefully pushed out of Tsavo National Park and compensated with only one debe of maize.
“The forest where Tsavo National Park is located was our home. All the names in the park including Tsavo are from Wartha community,” he said,
Mr Ole Mpaka said the group would engage with legislators and county governments to ensure they involved members of the minority in planning and employment.