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"Return our Land"

More than 16 years after they were cheated out of their land, members of the Maasai community of Iloodoariak, are still waiting for the Kenyan government to recognise their rights.

Until the 1970s, the land at Iloodoariak - measuring about 146,000 hectares - was held in trust by the state on behalf of the people. In 1979, the Iloodoariak were persuaded by the local government to subdivide the land into private plots and set up a `Land Adjudication Committee'. That, they were told, was the only way they could make a lasting claim to their land.

The`adjudicating process' continued for 10 years as the government `sold' the land to rich outsiders. Government officials assigned 20,000 hectares of the best of the land to as many as 362 people who were not members of the community. Meanwhile more than 1,200 poor Maasai families got nothing. Among the alleged beneficiaries of the land deal is Philip Leakey, brother of the anthropologist Richard Leakey.

In 1991, the community took their case to court, paying their costs by selling their cattle, but they were told that the legal period for complaint was already up. In September that year, a delegation from Iloodoariak marched to Nairobi and gained audience with President Moi. He promised to act on their behalf, but three and a half years and countless meetings later, the Iloodoariak are still waiting.
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