Monday, May 26, 2003
Ethnic minorities, especially
the Waata, treated shoddily
On behalf of the numerical
minorities - the Waata community of northern Kenya, Munyo of Tana River,
Ogiek, Konso, Sengwer - I wish to congratulate Narc for its wonderful triumph
over the dictatorial Kanu regime.
The Waata and our Rift Valley
brothers living in Tinet forest consider this victory as a signal of a new
beginning and the rebirth of our lost tribal identities, histories and
Just like the Ogoni of southern
Nigeria and the Bushmen of Kalahari Desert, the Waata are a hunter-gatherer
tribe and conservators of wildlife. However, despite the evidence, both the
pre-and post-colonial governments have failed to recognise the Waata as a
tribal entity and continued to register them under the dominant Borana, Gabra
and Orma tribes.
The community lacks both civil and
parliamentary representatives to protect them and articulate their interests.
The Waata people take great pride in the Narc government under the leadership
of President Mwai Kibaki, and unlike in the past, we now face the future with
hope and confidence that our identity is going to be restored.
We wish to bring two problems to
the attention of President Kibaki.
The previous regime marginalised
the minorities and left them out of development efforts because they are seen
to add little value to the global economic system.
This, compounded by ethnic
discrimination especially in employment and prejudice often reflected in
erroneous and pejorative names, has contrived to make the community less equal
than others. Therefore, we demand:
* The nomination of a Waata
representative to the National Assembly and civic leaders to the local
authority. In the past, the Waata have been exploited by politicians from the
* Secondly, the Waata should be
recognised as an independent tribal entity. This implies that they should be
separately enumerated during national censuses and when registering for
national identity cards. To avoid extinction, we totally reject the so-called
In past elections, selfish
politicians from other tribes promised to address our problems. However, the
promises were forgotten as soon as the election results were out. It is
shameful that these disadvantaged groups are used by political competitors as
mere objects to give them additional votes.
We believe the President will
agree with us that our plight should be addressed in relationship with their
basic human rights and not in relation with politics alone.
We noted that during his
inauguration speech, the President said all Kenyans had equal opportunities
regardless of their religious affiliations, race, or ethnic background and
We hope justice and fairness will
prevail as we wait for the constitutional review to be completed. Let the
delegates deliberate on our welfare even as they look at the welfare of the
country at large.
The only way to safeguard the
welfare of the Waata and other minority communities is to see that some form
of affirmative action is taken.
ALI BALLA BASHUNA,
Indigenous Waata People's Organisation,