On Aug.31,Mr Victor Prengei was sworn into Kenya’s Senate to represent the youth, becoming a historical day for the Ogiek community whose participation in political leadership had for decades been limited to village administration.
The Ogiek are among the indigenous minorities in Kenya with an estimated population of 45, 000, a community that has tirelessly fought for its recognition and inclusion into the East African’s nation governance structures.
Significantly therefore nomination of Mr Prengei, 32 into Senate by Jubilee Party whose leader is the incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta, heralds a new era of identification of Ogiek’s existence.
“This is truly a new dawn for the Ogiek community,” Senator Victor Prengei said soon after his swearing-in on Thursday.
As a Senator specifically representing the youth, Senator Prengei would play a crucial role of not just carrying interests of the youth into the Kenya’s Parliament but remarkably be the voice of the Ogiek in the Upper House.
Based on Article 96(1-3) of the Kenyan Constitution, responsibilities of a Senator are central to fostering development in the counties as their work is mainly to represent the devolved units and protect their interests and establish legislations backing their progress. Also determine division of revenue to these counties and follow up with oversight on utilization and management of the revenue allocated and raised from the local resources.
Senator Prengei promised to be a servant of the people committed to highlight the needs of all the indigenous people in Kenya.
“I will remain humble and serve every Kenyan with deserved respect,” he said. “I will not forget the indigenous people who have been marginalized for years.”
Since independence in 1963, there has been nil representation of the Ogiek into Parliament.
But since the pre-colonial period dating back to 1930s, the community has been a victim of unwarranted disenfranchisement owing to their removal from their ancestral land in the Mau Forest Complex predominantly disrupting their way of life.
This inhumane treatment preceded their suit against the Kenyan government in the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights which on May 16, found the State culpable of violating the human rights of the community following persistent evictions of its members from the forest.
The Court also recognized Ogiek as an equally significant community with a distinct culture whose rights to property, life, culture, religion, development and natural resources ought to be respected as provided in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
The case originated from a petition to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in 2009 by Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program (OPDP), Centre for Minority Rights Development (CEMIRIDE) and Minority Rights Group International (MRG) on behalf of Ogiek seeking intervention to save the community from continual evictions from Mau Forest Complex.
Later in 2012, it referred the matter to the African Court for judicial determination having found mass violations of the community’s human rights associated to their ejection from the forest.
And after the eight-year waiting period, the ruling was made in favour of the community.
Mr Daniel Kobei, OPDP Executive Director, termed nomination of Mr Prengei as fruits of their more than 16 years of advocacy for Ogiek rights. He thanked the community for their support and co-operation throughout the years.
In the same note, he reiterated that 2017 has been a year of blessings for the Ogiek having been sequentially fortuned with glad tidings since May.
“In May we had a landmark decision by the African Court; now we have a Senator. We thank the Creator for all these and more to come,” said Mr Kobei.
“We also have another Ogiek from Marishoni Ward nominated as a Member of the County Assembly (MCA) into the Nakuru County Assembly,” he added.
Mr Kobei accompanied the youthful nominated Senator to the house to witness his swearing-in and later led a delegation of community members in celebrating the accomplishment.
“It is very encouraging that we are now being recognized by the government. It means our work has been impactful in highlighting the concerns of the Ogiek. We are really excited of this achievement,” said Mr Kobei.
The celebration conducted at a Nairobi hotel involved adorning Senator Prengei and Mr Kobei with Ogiek regalia known as ‘Sambut’ to signify leadership and respect as well as snacking on honey to symbolize the Ogiek culture and mark a new beginning for the community.