The Meeting of a Hero and the Return of the Colonial Chief

The Meeting of a Hero and the Return of the Colonial Chief

Late last year I wrote about Mzee Alio Matmolu who has been arrested by his chief just because he asked for a simple document; An MoU signed between the Borana people and their land in the Biliqo area and Northern Rangelands Trust. For asking for this document, he was arrested by the chief of the area, intimidated and asked to report once a week to the Police. I had never met this man but I was furious as our constitution is clear about our rights as KENYAN citizens and land use, and nobody should be arrested for defending his or her rights let alone for a simple request such as asking for an MOU.

For decades Mzee Alio grazed his animals where he lived but one day NRT fenced and armed rangers who refused him to enter his own rangelands. On what grounds, a furious Mzee Alio Matmolu asked, am I not allowed to graze my animals on my own community lands? A few days later he was arrested for “inciting” his community against NRT.

I was furious with this vicious ukoloni, and the way chiefs are under the pay of a white man, a son of an immigrant to Kenya. He has an OBE, which is a special award given by the Queen of England for ‘service to queen and country” – so he’s her subject and not under President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Regarding the argument, there is no MoU. There is no agreement anywhere on earth that the Borana People have given I. Craig permission to arm men and subsequently kick them out of their own grazing lands.

I was invited to Biliqo Bulesa and together with other foreign journalists, we were asked to go and listen to both sides of the NRT story. As with all stories there is good and bad, and my good is that I got to meet my hero, this gentle and immensely intelligent grandfather Alio Matmolu. I listened to him as he spoke and he’s deep, wise, concerned for Kenya and everything we wish our political leaders were.

This country is beautiful, huge and delightful, yet there are foreigners who come and import their greed here, to try and destroy our simple lives.

There is no greed and hatred among the different tribes at all in Biliqo Bulesa. It is pure propaganda pushed by those who cannot ever understand the beauty of our Kenyan culture and pride of our land. We were given this land.

Mzee Alio’s unfortunate arrest is just the tip of the iceberg and a gross representation of a larger land crisis in the north perpetrated by mostly foreign companies or companies and non-governmental organizations led by sons of settlers and former colonial masters. Pasture and water is the lifeblood of the pastoralist. Fencing their land in the name of conserving it is like cutting off blood circulation to the brain. Nomads have lived in these lands for centuries, know how to not only manage it but also share it. They do not need foreigners who have at best a textbook knowlegde of their culture and way of life to come and lecture them on how to use and share land amonsgt themselves. Nomads will not accept their land taken away from them in the name of conservancy.

The ministry of lands, environment and all other government agencies must come to the rescue of pastoralists like Mzee Alio and stop the forceful albeit subtle depletion of their wealth in an attempt to impoverish them and may be take over their land or as alleged fence off all valuable land that contains natural resources for future exploitation. This neocolonial misuse of locals’ hospitality is tantamount to insulting their intelligence and pastoralist will fight it with the same vigour they fought colonization.