Capitalizing on our cultural diversities to foster harmonious co-existence among Kenyan communities was the key message in this year’s 3rd Annual Ogiek Cultural Day held at Nessuit Primary School on 22nd April.
The event attracted various peace stakeholders in the society including members from various communities residing in the Mau Forest region, local administrators, religious leaders and village opinion leaders.
The occasion officiated by Prof Gitile Naituli, Commissioner with National Cohesion and Integration (NCIC) was themed ‘Leveraging on Culture to Attain National Cohesion and Integration’
Each speaker during the event emphasized on the necessity of appreciating existence of cultural diversities to promote peace and unity in Kenya. Prof.Naituli noted the importance of preserving culture since it was integral to promoting development in the country. “It is critical to recognize the importance of culture and strive to preserve it as builds a peaceful society,” he said.
While referring to Ogiek’s historical association with environment and how they utilized it to meet their socio-economic needs, Prof.Naituli called on communities to adopt sustainable management systems of exploiting natural resources.
He cautioned of conflicts over limited natural resources in the future should communities continue to utilize available resources unsustainably.
Daniel Kobei,Executive Director of the Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program (OPDP) said it is emulating that the Ogiek have cohesively integrated with other communities despite their distinct culture.
“Ogiek have learnt to adapt to a new environment complete with people from different cultures,” he said.
“They do not refuse to interact with them because they speak a different language. They have accommodated their cultures and live with them as brothers and sisters. And hat is what we need as a country,” he added.
He urged communities to embrace cultural diversity for it was significant to steering achievement of national cohesion and unity.
Over the years the Ogiek culture has faced convoluted transitions with its original practices rapidly fading away and the language slowly dying away.
The Ogiek have for centuries lived in the forest, drawing their livelihood from naturally occurring forest resources.
But start of evictions in the early 1990s brought forth beginning of disintegration of their culture.
Many have moved into different directions meeting new neighbours who speak different languages, eat different food from the natural honey, wild meat and fruits they were used to in the forest. But they have learnt cultures and now live as friends.
Wilson Kipkazi, Executive Director of the Endorois Welfare Council appealed to the people to accommodate the multiplicity of cultures in the society.
He said despise of one’s culture is the beginning of inter-community conflicts and should be avoided to maintain peace and order in the country.
“We should all respect one another’s culture. We have all grown up within certain cultural patterns and therefore nobody should look down upon anyone’s culture,” he said.
Sena Kanyinke, representing the Minority Rights Group (MRG) encouraged the Ogiek to be in the forefront in protecting culture.
He urged the community to capitalize on the Kenyan pro-cultural protection laws to safeguard their customs and traditions which would further draw them international recognition.
Various Ogiek cultural groups exhibited their artifacts and performed folk songs manifesting their treasured traditional way of life. Also, skits carrying the message of promoting peace through culture were presented, stirring echoes of peace, love and unity from members of diverse communities in attendance.