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Posted by on in Land Rights

Maasai community activist Moses Ole Mpoe was shot to death on Friday, December 3, by masked gunmen who pulled up alongside his car on a motorbike and sprayed the vehicle with machine gun bullets. Mpoe was traveling to Nakuru town from Mau Narok—the region involved in a land rights case currently being heard in the Kenyan Superior Court. If successful, the case would return almost 30,000 acres of Maasai land that was taken during British colonialism and is now in the hands of several Kenyan political and financial elites.

Mpoe had been a strong voice in the campaign to return Mau Narok to the Maasai for many years. He died at the scene along with another colleague.  A third passenger was taken to Nairobi National Hospital with bullet wounds to the head.  The Kenyan government has called in federal investigators from the United States to help track down the perpetrators.

In addition to these murders, Maasai people have reported to the Maasai Environmental Resource Coalition, a local human rights organization, that they have recently been beaten by armed guards when trying to take their cattle across the disputed land. Maasai community activist and political leader Meitamei Olol Dapash said, “Moses Ole Mpoe has been martyred for his people, and his assassins but must be found and brought to justice. He was a forceful voice for the land rights case, but the Maasai people will not be silenced in our quest to have these lands returned.”

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Tension mounts as Maasai community and Kenyan government face off over historical land rights case in Mau Narok. Government attempts to settle IDPs on Maasai ancestral homeland through deployment of the Kenyan military have been thwarted by the community’s refusal to vacate the land. No incidence of violence initiated by the Maasai community have been reported, yet community members have armed themselves and declared a willingness to die for this cause.  One month after the assassination of land rights activist Moses Ole Mpoe, arrests and death threats continue to be directed against Maasai leadership. A recent NTV poll shows that 86% of Kenyans support Maasai claims to this land and IDPs have refused settlement there. However, Minister of Special Programs, Hon. Esther Murugi, has insisted that the government will not back down from IDP settlement, and has made statements considered to be provocative and discriminatory by Maasai community leadership.

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