Land-Grabbing in Maasailand Mashanka
Land-Grabbing in Maasailand Mashanka

I remember the cracked walls plastered with cow dung, alone it stood on a vast dry and empty land. As the sun scorched and the trail lost, worn out lesos covered the many holes that infringed the privacy of this old woman. Her hut, a Maasai structure that stood near the St. Clares Girls’ secondary school was my childhood version of play. With her son Kisonko, we played hide and seek around the hut that later quenched the thirsts of our withered and dehydrated selves.

My mother was her greatest friend. She taught me well. She taught me that I should never in this world look down onto people because they are not well up. We were well up. A son of a P2 teacher was a spoiled kid. Our definition of spoiled was good clothes and toys but not bad character. We were neighbors, we lived in Rombo Boys Primary School teacher’s quarters while she lived across the stream. She wore no shoes, and neither did her children. They would make stories with my mum and she would teach me Maasai. They would end up laughing at my broken Maasai and would jokingly end up calling me ‘meeki’ or ‘orkirikoi’. 

Kisonko used to herd her mother’s goats. They were around five. He would do this as soon as he got out of school and on all weekends. Her mother would attend church instead. She used to herd the goats during weekdays and we would wave at her during break and lunch breaks in school. Kisonko was a great friend, I remember giving him my slippers for him to herd with and persevere getting punished for losing my slippers again. I pitied how he walked amidst thorns and sharp stones barefoot and how he would tell me to look beyond the cracks of his dead skin for a painful thorn that pierced him. He was more than a friend, though he had torn shorts and shirts and I had the best in life, I never for one second looked down on him.

It is the first time tears roll down my cheeks for quite a long while. We had just attended an event at Enterkesi village in Rombo, one organized by Ilmaa Girls to demand justice for one Christine Kipaya. She started talking and I never hesitated to draw out my camera. I hid my tears beneath my camera and was strong to move on with my recording.

Mashanka is her name. She was recently involved in a very huge land scandal one that saw her recollect more ordeals of pain in her life. One that saw her narrate her sad story all over again. There was an aura of grey around her. Agonizing gloom filled the hearts of the audience. It was a mist that wouldn’t rise. A state of depression that she couldn’t see herself through. Though we never saw it, a hot tear rolled down to her stomach. She was too strong to show it, to let it make her weak. There was a giant hole in her heart and she knew nothing would ever be the same.


It happened that the group ranch was subdividing it’s land and she was not given any piece because she was not married. She talks of how her neighbors got land from the subdivision but she never got any. Her explanations of how she used to go round begging for food created a heart-wrenching catastrophic mood from the crowd. She gave a story of how she used to come to homesteads around where she is currently standing to beg for food. She mentioned of how she used to beg for food at Ole Mputes home.

The old Kokoo told the crowd that they refused to give her land because she had no husband and she needs to leave. She asked the crowd who would accept her at her old age. She painfully gives the stories of how she would get rained on and brace the cold and how people would laugh at her for wearing skin clothes. She narrateed of the scars she has from the battering in her previous marriage. She is worried of where they would dump her or where they would want her to go.

She later narrated to me of how she was just picked from her home and lied to that she was going for a meeting. The guys took her and handed her documents that she were to sign and since she was illiterate she had to mark with her thumb in the signatory section. She refused to sign anything she never knew of. She was then taken to the Police Post at Loitokitok Divisional Headquarters located at Illasit.

She talks of how she was held for two weeks without food. She says of how stressful her life is and how she contracted high blood pressure from the scary ordeal and over-thinking. In all these narrations. Her sadness is so deep and she asks the question, ‘What Then?’ She asks what is more painful than putting an old woman behind bars in cold because she is living in a land that she was born in? She asks what ill thing she did to deserve all these. She claims to have lived in the land for nearly upto 50years. She calls up to anyone who can help her to do so.

She is heart-broken, suffering from high blood pressure and worn out. She is desperate for help. The law says that if someone lives in a land for 12years and that land is unclaimed it becomes theirs. This old woman’s first born is called Ntipapa born in 1984. I know that for sure because I know the guy personally.

My question will be, who would be so evil to do these acts? Who would be so callous and insensitive? Another great question will be, who will know that this poor woman has her rights and sits back to watch without doing anything? Who would sit down and relax as all these is being carried out?

She has a court hearing on 9th of May 2016. How will it go? Which way Maasai? Which way leaders? Which way group ranches? If you came for her, you will surely come for me. So do I stand and watch?



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