Marginalisation of the Waata Oromo hunter–gatherers of Kenya: 

insider and outsider perspectives

Authors: Aneesa Kassam; Ali Balla Bashuna

Source: Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, 1 July 2004, vol. 74, no. 2, pp. 194-216(23)

Publisher: Edinburgh University Press

This paper examines how the way of life of a little known group of hunter–gatherers, the Waata Oromo, was brought to an end through British colonial wildlife conservation laws and the creation of national parks in Kenya. Through this policy and that of the containment of ethnic groups to 'tribal reserves', the Waata lost their place in the regional economic system and suffered loss of cultural identity. It also meant that when Kenya gained independence, the Waata were not recognised as a distinct entity with rights to their own political representation. Instead, they became appendages of the dominant pastoral groups with which they had been associated. They were thus doubly marginalised, in both economic and political terms. The paper describes how this situation has led some Waata in northern Kenya to claim separate ethnic status. It discusses the problem from the point of view of a Waata social activist and of an anthropologist. These two perspectives raise further issues for the etic/emic debate in anthropology.