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Moving the Maasai: A Colonial Misadventure

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The history of the Maasai moves, land alienation and resistance in colonial British East Africa. In 1904, in order to make way for white settlers in what was to become Kenya, the Maasai were forcibly moved into two reserves, robbing them of the best part of their land in British East Africa. Using unique oral testimony and archival evidence, this book tells the true story behind the making of the 'White Highlands', and the repercussions of these events to the present day.
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Moving the Maasai: A Colonial Misadventure
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How to cite:
Hughes, Lotte (2006). Moving the Maasai: A Colonial Misadventure. St Antony’s Series. Basingstoke,
UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
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2006 Palgrave Macmillan
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Moving the Maasai: Conclusion
The time has come for the Maasai community to pause and review, reflect and evaluate
their total losses during the horrific removal by the British Imperial Regime from their
lands It would not be improper or imprudent for the Maasai to demand that they get
back part of their pasture lands or be paid compensation…
In evicting the Maasai from the Rift Valley and Laikipia, the British clearly perpetrated
a great injustice that has repercussions to this day.
After all, Britain made a solemn contract
over land and broke its terms just seven years later, under the pretext that the Maasai
themselves had asked to be relocated. The numbers of people who died during the first phase
of the second move (up to August 1911) cannot be proved and may be negligible; the injustice
goes deeper and wider than that. The northern sections lost the greater part of their land, and
the wide range of habitat necessary for transhumant pastoralism. The extended Southern
Reserve was an inferior substitute for the northern territory. Its western extension lacked
sufficient permanent water sources, accessible forests and drought refuges, while disease
vectors were more prevalent.
From their own surveys, the British had a good idea of the quality of this reserve
before they sent the ‘northern’ Maasai there, but it was not until Aneurin Lewis’s studies of
ticks and tsetse in the 1930s that thorough scientific investigations were made and a clear
picture emerged of the environmental challenges to which certain Maasai communities were
exposed. Any subsequent ‘overgrazing’ and ‘overstocking’ were a direct result of increased
confinement, overcrowding in certain areas, curtailment of seasonal migration, an almost
continuous state of quarantine, and early restrictions on cattle trading, although another
contributory factor was improved veterinary services, when they eventually came, which led
to larger stockholdings.
Moving the Maasai: Conclusion
Despite enormous losses to disease, overall stock numbers rose, leading to concerns
about congestion in the reserve by the 1930s. There is clearly a mismatch here between the
reality of herd growth, which signifies health and prosperity, and what is collectively
remembered – the demise of Maasai herds and society following the moves. This suggests that
stories about disease are partly a social metaphor, representing social fragmentation and
Maasai loss of control over their physical environment, which were major end results of the
moves and colonial intervention. Another anomaly concerns small stock: complaints about the
unsuitability of the Southern Reserve for cattle overshadows the fact that large areas offered
excellent pasture and other favourable conditions for sheep and goats, particularly on Loita.
The evidence suggests that those responsible for this injustice were principally local
administrators, who privileged the interests of white settlers over those of Africans and
Indians. It was not primarily driven by the Foreign or Colonial Offices in London whose
officials tended (at least in the early days) to underline the need to respect ‘native’ land rights
and balance these against European land claims. The FO and CO were to a large extent kept in
the dark by their commissioners and governors in British East Africa (BEA). They were lied to
on many occasions over such crucial issues as alleged Maasai acquiescence to both moves, the
reason for the second move, and whether or not promises of land in the highlands had been
made to European settlers before plans for the second move were hatched. The failure to send
Arthur Collyer’s 1910 ‘Report on the Masai Question to London amounted to criminal deceit;
it was held back for some eighteen months, rendering its recommendations useless. Poor
communications by sea between East Africa and London aided the BEA administration in its
deception of the home government, particularly under Girouard. However, local officials
were by no means united in their sentiments and did not speak with one voice. Dissenters,
Moving the Maasai: Conclusion
including high- and middle-ranking officials who objected to the manner in which the Maasai
were dispossessed, though not necessarily to the moves themselves, were over-ruled and
As for the Maasai Agreements, it is doubtful whether the Maasai signatories to the first
Agreement understood its implications, but no evidence exists to show that it was actually
forced upon them. The second Agreement was certainly forced upon largely unwilling
signatories, some of whom, notably Ole Gilisho, had received threats from British officials
which they took very seriously. The age-set spokesman clearly saw the implications of the
second Agreement for the first, likening the latter to ‘a broken weapon which is finished
All the available evidence belies Lewis Harcourt’s confident claim to the House of
Commons in July 1911 when Secretary of State for the Colonies: ‘The Masai came to a
unanimous and even enthusiastic decision to move to the Southern Reserve’.
After the 1913
court case, threats to his life reportedly forced Ole Gilisho to cancel his plans to visit Britain to
pursue the legal action before the Privy Council – one of many claims made in oral testimony
which do not appear anywhere in the written literature. The second Agreement amounted to an
abrogation of the first, since the government broke its promise to leave the Maasai undisturbed
in Laikipia ‘for so long as the Masai as a race shall exist’. If it was intended to amend the first,
it should have been signed by the same people, and not by the minor, 13-year-old Seggi. But
by that time, most conveniently for the British, his father Olonana was dead.
Although Olonana’s duplicity was a factor in Girouard’s plans to move the Maasai for
a second time, linked to an internal struggle for control within the Purko section, this was not
the overriding issue. Diana Wylie has asked: ‘Was the move prompted exclusively by
European financial interests, as Leys suggested?’
On my evidence, the answer is: ‘No, not
Moving the Maasai: Conclusion
entirely’. Lord Delamere and other leading settlers certainly lobbied hard for land on Laikipia.
But other factors behind the move included a desire to reverse a 1904 two-reserve solution to
the ‘Maasai problem’ which clearly had not worked; to corral, control and tax the Maasai
more effectively in one area, and through taxation to produce more wage labourers; to prevent
them from wandering between the two reserves; to stop the spread of ‘native’ stock disease to
European farms; and to acquire an area for white pastoralists that was reportedly free of ECF.
The Governor allegedly wished to support ‘traditional’ leadership in the form of Olonana and
his sons, who already lived in the Southern Reserve, conveniently close to the centre of
government, and who favoured a one-reserve policy because their authority was being
challenged as a result of the physical division. Girouard believed that government control of
the Maasai would be facilitated by this ‘special relationship’ to Olonana’s dynasty; in fact, the
relationship fell apart. Finally, there was some official fear of settler aggression towards the
Maasai (and their likely retaliation) if the two communities were not fully separated and
desirable land not freed up for whites.
There are many legal aspects of the treaties and forced moves, first aired on appeal in
1913, which would not stand up to scrutiny in court today. These will be tested if the Maasai
realise plans to bring another legal action something veteran Maasai politician John Keen
threatened in 1962 when he brought to the constitutional, pre-independence talks at Lancaster
House, London, his memorandum on the treaties.
In 1913, the British government had good
reason to believe it would not win the Maasai Case. Private discussions within the CO, as
revealed in the National Archives, show that recourse to the Privy Council was considered
well before the case even reached court, and the likelihood of having to pay compensation was
also anticipated. Furthermore, close examination of the 1911 Agreement, and connections
Moving the Maasai: Conclusion
between it and the granting of a concession to the Magadi Soda Company, suggests that the
Company and its successors at Lake Magadi, Kajiado District, probably have no legal right to
be there.
In the early 1960s, with independence imminent, the British admitted they had a
‘moral obligation’ to the Maasai as a result of the treaties, but defined this very narrowly.
These words are likely to return to haunt them, while National Archives files from 1962 on the
future of the Agreements, marked ‘Closed: no further action to be taken’, may suddenly prove
to be of great official interest.
Oral testimonies, albeit problematical, augment and enrich what is already known
about these events. By adding Maasai voices to the story it is enriched and amplified, and an
imbalance in the literature at least partially redressed. It is acknowledged that interviews with
members of other sections would produce a much fuller picture, and add a necessary
corrective to predominantly Purko claims, but this is beyond the scope of this particular study.
The repercussions of these events in the short term included distrust and alienation; a
Maasai retreat from the colonial state which led to their falling behind in development and
education (a situation that still persists in many parts of Maasailand, though this is partly
attributable to reactionary attitudes, especially to the education and other rights of girls and
women); and considerable stock and human losses in the decade following the second move
when resistance had not been developed to diseases such as East Coast fever (ECF) and
malaria which were either unknown or not prevalent in the north. Warrior uprisings in 1918,
1922 and 1935 can also be subsumed under repercussions. The significance of the fatal clash
between British forces and il-murran at Ololulunga, western Narok, in 1918 has been
Moving the Maasai: Conclusion
misinterpreted by historians who have relied upon a single explanation – that it was sparked
by opposition to forced schooling. Although this was a contributory factor, the uprising
which left between 16 and 51 dead, depending on whose account one accepts – seems to have
been symptomatic of a wider frustration with British colonial rule and land alienation.
The evidence suggests that Maasai herds on Laikipia were resistant to ECF, and
enzootic stability could be maintained. Also, when they had the space to roam, herders coped
with disease by simply moving stock away from infected pastures. In the longer term, a
combination of factors, driven by the moves and colonial intervention as a whole, led to acute
population pressure, land degradation, erosion of subsistence livelihoods, a decline in the
quality of stock since quarantine prevented the import of bulls, loss of markets, and increased
vulnerability to drought. Furthermore, by placing the Maasai in reserves, and hedging these
about with treaty promises that included a pledge to repel ethnic ‘aliens’, the British nurtured
an enduring obsession with boundaries, promised land and exclusivity. This has manifested
itself since the early 1990s in ‘ethnic’ clashes and renewed calls for majimbo (regionalism),
while a fluid ethnic identity has become increasingly concretized.
Further research would be required to find out what impact the immigrants and their
stock had on Maasai communities already living in the Southern Reserve, some of whom were
violently displaced. More broadly, to view the moves as something which massively
inconvenienced the Purko, but left everyone else virtually untouched, is to overlook the ripple
effects on other Maasai sections and neighbouring ethnic groups. In 1904 a stone was thrown
into the pond that was Maasai life in the northern Rift, making waves for everyone around.
These negative repercussions must of course be weighed against the gains, both from
colonial contact and as a result of moving to the south. Individuals gained from the first of
Moving the Maasai: Conclusion
these, in terms of power, finance, education, patronage and wider opportunities. Maasai were
forced to make new and profitable alliances, both with agents of the state and other ethnic
groups, and between Maasai sections. The gains accrued from moving to the south have
included enormous revenues from wildlife tourism, and for some individuals, from lucrative
wheat farming and land speculation. However, these riches have not been equitably shared
beyond the county councils which manage the game parks in Maasai territory, and powerful
individuals and families, though some tourism profits are distributed to the community via
Maasai-run wildlife associations. Current grievances in Maasailand include widespread
corruption, politicisation, monetisation, the widening gap between rich and poor,
encroachment by other ethnic groups, expansion of cultivated areas (though Maasai are
increasingly turning to cultivation themselves), and the privatisation and subdivision of land
under a land adjudication programme into uselessly small plots. In this process, poor Maasai
are being dispossessed by rich Maasai and others.
Resistance and power
The form of passive resistance led by Ole Gilisho was extraordinary for its time and
place. But it is entirely consistent with the role of an age-set spokesman in leading,
counselling and defending the community, sometimes – if necessary – in defiance of elders.
In seeking legal redress through discourse with the British, Ole Gilisho was also conforming
to role type, and the form of dispute settlement which he hoped to use had parallels in Maasai
customary justice. He emerges from this evidence as an unsung folk hero whose personal
charisma and leadership qualities, combined with the opportunities handed to his age-set by
nineteenth century battle victories, and later by the opportunities offered by British
Moving the Maasai: Conclusion
colonialism to age-set spokesmen and prophets in particular, allowed him to gain
unprecedented power and moral authority. He exercised this power to gain ascendancy over
the prophet Olonana and his sons Seggi and Kimuruai. Ole Gilisho’s alleged ‘conservativism’
a term applied to him by administrators, and unquestioningly reiterated by some scholars
can be reinterpreted as progressivism. Though he later appeared to collude with the state
himself, as a paid ‘chief’, he played a double game – promoting Maasai interests while
supporting the state in, for example, its attempts to dismantle warriorhood.
Certain anthropological models of authority in the ‘classic’ pastoralist gerontocracy,
which historians also tended to accept pre-Hodgson et al, are implicitly challenged and
undermined by this evidence.
This model centres on the idea that power resides with male
elders and councils of elders; that warriors have no real ‘political’ power or authority; that
warrior rebellion against elders is merely ritualistic in nature; and that prophets are more
powerful than age-set spokesmen. The behaviour of Ole Gilisho and his supporters from
c1912-13 may be dismissed as an aberration and departure from the norm, but their rebellion
was for real, not ritual. The reasoned nature of this resistance belies the stereotypical image of
‘wild’, irrational and predominantly volatile warrior behaviour. Though produced initially by
nineteenth century explorers and missionaries, this image is still current in some quarters.
As for Norman Leys, he did not manage to prevent the second move. But he helped to
bring down Girouard, in sowing the seeds of doubt about him at the CO and supplying
information that proved the Governor was a liar. His actions prompted the CO to stop the
illegal 1910 move, and he both inspired and fuelled actions by an influential circle of
humanitarians in Britain to challenge and discredit colonial policy in East Africa. He did more
to assist the Maasai in their legal action than he ever admitted in print, while maintaining a
Moving the Maasai: Conclusion
curious ambivalence towards them which was characteristic of the man.
Leys also helped to
widen the debate about imperialism, the human rights of imperial subjects, land and labour,
health and housing, the impact of capitalism upon the developing world, the links between
macroeconomic policies and grassroots injustice, and the nature of development in Africa.
This debate was a precursor to nationalist struggle and the eventual dismantling of the colonial
state – which is ironic, given that Leys did not oppose imperialism per se; he simply argued
for ‘humane’ and transparent imperialism on liberal lines. Together with McGregor Ross, he
challenged settler hegemony in Kenya and helped to scupper settler attempts to create a white
dominion. As a Christian Socialist he questioned the role of missionaries, and demanded
quality, dogma-free education for Africans since ‘they have as much right as we to understand
the world we both live in, and far greater need of knowledge as a defence against oppression’,
foreseeing that this would ‘make them think politically’.
Leys warrants a full-scale study in
his own right, and I have not attempted to cover the story of his post-Kenyan career. As Cell
notes, in semi-retirement ‘his home and surgery at Brailsford near Derby became the nerve
centre of an intense, unceasing publicity campaign’.
Unfortunately, he never lived to see the
fruits of it, but African nationalists, the international human rights movement, development
practitioners, and a succession of whistle-blowers, have much to thank him for. He had
convictions, and was not afraid to voice them.
There was a spectrum of critical dissidence over the Maasai moves in both Britain and
BEA, and one must not allow individual contributions to the whole to be obscured by noisier
voices such as that of Leys. The dissidents included, of course, Ole Gilisho and his supporters.
On the European side, one of the more surprising champions of Maasai rights turns out to have
been George Goldfinch – game warden, settler and Master of Foxhounds.
Moving the Maasai: Conclusion
Blood brothers and reversed exodus
The reason why the Maasai failed to violently resist the second move may partly be
ascribed to the blood brotherhood pact allegedly made between leading white settlers and
Maasai representatives sometime before 1911. The oral evidence for this is overwhelming; I
believe it did take place, very likely at Soysambu in the Rift Valley. On this point, however, I
shall have my cake and eat it too: whether or not the ceremony occurred, the centrality of this
story in oral testimonies which reflect collective memories of the moves is crucially important.
If a myth, it functions as a very powerful social metaphor; but if it is true, it is a vital and
hitherto unseen beacon in the Maasai-British colonial discourse. Belief in it also helped to
shape relationships between certain white settlers and Maasai workers on European farms in
the highlands after World War One, relationships rich in irony. These were more complex than
many scholars have acknowledged, and cannot be easily dismissed as paternalistic, or
characterised solely by white brutality. The indulgence of Maasai workers by Delamere and
Colvile in particular was not simply a matter of ‘spoiling their pets’; this was a two-way street
whereon a mutual admiration society formed, embedded in the idea of blood brotherhood
between two peoples, and shared notions of racial superiority. Of course, both these men were
also motivated by land greed.
Certain leading settlers enabled, and actively encouraged, considerable numbers of
Maasai to return north after the second move and reconsolidate their herds and families on
white-owned farms. In this way, many ‘northern’ Maasai quietly reversed the forced exodus
from Laikipia and the Rift. The numbers are unquantifiable without more research. Some
retained their toe-hold in the north all along, either by pretending to be ‘Dorobo’ or by
Moving the Maasai: Conclusion
refusing to move at all, successfully seeking refuge as workers on European farms. This
pattern of return and reoccupation of the northern territories refutes the standard wisdom that
the so-called recolonisation of the ‘White Highlands’ was a largely Kikuyu venture.
The legal situation today
In the intervening years Maasai leaders have repeatedly complained about the land
alienation and its consequences (see my 2005 article).
My opening quote summarises the
view held by Maasai activists who now intend to revisit the treaties and 1913 case in order to
seek legal redress and reparations. They are inspired by legal precedents which include the
successful challenge of colonial treaties by indigenous peoples, and their reclamation of
natural resources. Such treaties were not all bad news for indigenes; some can be used today to
prove separate nationhood and to hold former colonial powers accountable for past pledges.
(Aboriginal peoples in Australia, who never made a treaty with the colonial state, have long
pressured the government to draw up a treaty precisely because it would guarantee their rights
and recognise their cultural distinctiveness.)
One of the best-known challenges has been brought by Maori in response to the Treaty
of Waitangi, signed by the Crown and Maori leaders in 1840. Unbeknown to them, it took
away their sovereignty. But it expressly guaranteed them ‘full exclusive and undisturbed
possession of their lands and estates forests fisheries and other properties’. Through a tribunal,
established in 1975 as a permanent commission of inquiry into claims relating to the treaty,
Maori are able to lodge claims to land and natural resources, or hold the government
accountable for breaches of treaty principles. The tribunal does not settle claims, but can
recommend whether or not actions or omissions of the Crown breached these principles.
Moving the Maasai: Conclusion
However, in the Kenyan case no such domestic legal process exists, therefore this avenue is
not open to the Maasai.
There are parallels between the two scenarios, including the fact that versions of the
Treaty of Waitangi were oral. James Belich, who maintains there were at least five treaties,
writes that the fourth version was ‘a series of oral agreements among chiefs, as well as
between them and those speaking for the Governor ... The trouble is, how do we now know
what was in them?’
This echoes the oral agreements made at the time of the alleged blood
brotherhood. And as with the Maasai, the illiterate Maori signatories’ understanding of what
the Treaty of Waitangi actually meant was very different from that of the British. Vincent
O’Malley writes of this and other early agreements in New Zealand: ‘Indeed, more often it
would appear that Maori interpreted early agreements as confirming rather than extinguishing
their rights, albeit in a modified environment in which their land and resources would now be
shared with their new guests’. (My italics.)
According to my informants, this ‘sharing’ is
exactly what the Maasai believed would happen as a result of their Agreements. Hence the
persistent lament that alienated land did not revert to the Maasai community when the British
left Kenya.
Patrick McAuslan, now professor of law at Birkbeck College, University of London,
says of the 1913 Maasai judgement: ‘My view of the case is the same today as it was when
Yash Ghai and I wrote our book in the late 1960s: it is hypocritical and political’. However, he
foresees several problems with any forthcoming Maasai action, not least because key
precedents – such as the Mabo judgement in Australia, and Waitangi claims – have taken
place in national courts. It is dangerous, he says, to assume that British courts will virtually
rewrite the law on indigenous land rights just because other jurisdictions have done so:
Moving the Maasai: Conclusion
First, Australian and New Zealand courts are national courts dealing with national land
issues. The British courts would be asked to deal with Kenyan land issues. Since the
nineteenth century, it has been established that British courts will not pass judgement on
land cases in foreign countries where they cannot enforce it. How could they enforce a
judgement that Kenyan landowners and the Kenyan government should restore the Maasai
to their ancestral land?
McAuslan also believes it highly unlikely that Kenyan courts will go down the road
towards land reparations as courts in other former colonies have done. ‘The courts of these
countries [apart from South Africa] are staffed by the descendants of the dispossessors and are
accepting vicarious responsibility for the defaults of their forebears. But what colonial evils
have the Kenyan judges and their forebears been guilty of? They too were dispossessed of
land and treated badly.’ Lawyers for the Maasai have said they would prefer to seek justice in
London, at least initially, but too much time may have passed. The Privy Council is no longer
an option; Kenya abolished appeals to this body in 1963. Other possible avenues include the
African Commission for Human and People’s rights in Banjul, Gambia, or the use of UN
protocols. The UN Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states:
Indigenous peoples have the right to the restitution of the lands, territories and resources
which they had traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used, and which have been
confiscated, occupied, used or damaged without their free and informed consent. Where
this is not possible, they have the right to just and fair compensation.
Article 14 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 169 says something
similar about the need to establish land claims processes.
But the Kenyan government has
not signed ILO 169, and the UN Declaration remains a draft. One major sticking point in
Moving the Maasai: Conclusion
discussions of the draft is the refusal of some governments, including that of Britain, to accept
the use of the plural ‘peoples’ in its wording. Britain refuses to recognise the collectivity of
human rights, explaining: ‘We believe that if states with indigenous communities ratify and
implement the six most important UN human rights treaties, they can do more to improve the
human rights of indigenous people than by creating new collective rights’.
Then there is the
whole question of who is indigenous in Africa; some argue that all Africans are indigenous,
therefore the Maasai (in this instance) cannot demand special treatment. If discussions are
successfully concluded on a new draft constitution for Kenya, this may allow redress for
historical injustices including land grabbing. But previous talks ended in stalemate, and it is
not clear if and when a new constitution is to be adopted.
Two government-appointed land
commissions have reported in recent years, but these review bodies cannot resolve this kind of
land claim, any more than the Kenya Land Commission did in the 1930s. It is not within their
At the time of writing, the Task Force of Maa-speaking Communities behind the
forthcoming action had submitted a Memorandum on the Anglo-Maasai ‘Agreements’ to the
British government, setting out their historical grievances. No official reply had been received.
But Lord Avebury MP, deciding to take an interest in the Maasai as Edmund Harvey and
others had done nearly 100 years earlier, pushed the Foreign Office for a written response,
after reminding it that there was a case to answer. He was told: ‘The legal position today is
quite clear: at the time of independence the Government of Kenya inherited any obligations
that formerly rested on us as the sovereign power’.
There is a distinct sense of déjà vu.
Moving the Maasai: Conclusion
Despite some anomalies, there appears to have been a solid basis for Maasai belief in
the intrinsic healthiness of their former grazing grounds. White settlers flocked to the
highlands principally because they were seen to be healthy, and offered a welcome respite
from the sickness that stalked the coast. It follows that what was healthy for whites was
healthy for black Africans, too. But Maasai attachment to Entorror, their former northern
territory, represents a larger nostalgia for the past, and in particular for Purko well-being and
hegemony over other sections, following their rout of the Laikipiak in the nineteenth century.
The Purko’s last foothold in Entorror, Laikipia, has taken on the status of a lost Eden in social
memory. It is said to have been sweet, disease-free, blessed by good pastures and plentiful
rain, in contrast to the ‘bitterness’ of the south. Intertwined with this idea is nostalgia for the
concept of a Maasai nation and nationalist identity, which Ole Gilisho allegedly attempted to
forge. Entorror was both a place and a defining moment, which many Maasai set against the
disharmony and disunity of the present time. The current political struggles over land,
resources and power can only be understood in this context.
Moving the Maasai: Conclusion
From an unpublished draft ‘Concept paper for the facilitation of activities towards institution
of the Maasai case’, by SIMOO (Simba Maasai Outreach Organisation), Kenya, 2003.
Supplied to the author.
Part of my Conclusion has been published as an article, and will not be duplicated here. See
‘Malice in Maasailand: The Historical Roots of Current Political Struggles’, African Affairs,
104/415 (April 2005), pp. 207-224.
Remarks made by Ole Gilisho in a meeting at Nakuru, 5 December 1912, Conf. 136, Belfield
to Harcourt, 17 December 1912, CO533/109, NA.
From a debate on the colonies, 20 July 1911, Hansard, Vol. 28, col. 1350.
Wylie, ‘Critics’, p. 65.
Memorandum on Masai Treaties of 1904 and 1911, 23 March 1962, CO822/2000, NA.
See my dissertation, Chapter 4. This subject has been cut for length reasons.
See my dissertation, Chapter 9. This has been cut from the published manuscript.
I am thinking in particular of the Hodgson-edited collection Rethinking Pastoralism in Africa
Cell also noted this ‘fundamental ambivalence’, By Kenya Possessed, pp. 10-11.
Leys, Kenya, p. 392.
Cell, By Kenya Possessed, p. 8.
Lotte Hughes, African Affairs, ibid.
James Belich, Making Peoples: A History of the New Zealanders from Polynesian
Settlement to the End of the Nineteenth Century (Auckland and London: Allen Lane, 1996), p.
Moving the Maasai: Conclusion
Vincent O'Malley, ‘Treaty-Making in Colonial New Zealand’, New Zealand Journal of
History, Vol. 33, 2 (1999), p. 139.
Personal communication. Also quoted in my article, ‘Fight for the forbidden land’, Sunday
Times Magazine (London: 4 January 2004).
Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Part V1, Operative Paragraph 25,
viewable at
ILO Convention 169 (1989), Convention Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in
Independent Countries, viewable at
UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office Human Rights Annual Report 2004 (London: 2004)
p. 212.
The situation has moved on since I wrote this, but Kenya still has no new constitution.
Chris Mullin MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth
Office, to Lord Avebury, 23 March 2005.
... Given the long-term perspective of this study, archival resources were included to supplement the oral accounts. With regard to the Greater Mara case in particular, we consulted a range of Foreign and Commonwealth Office files from the 1950s and 1960s at the National Archives in Kew, as well as secondary sources of the long-term dynamics of the social, environmental and political landscape (especially [11,[77][78][79][80]). We also consulted new geospatial mappings of fences based on satellite images from (1965)1985 to 2020, and their associated ground truthing studies [81][82][83]. ...
... Access was negotiated through physical force and presence, and the use of land and water was regulated customarily by community members and elders. In the late 19th century, following a rinderpest outbreak and a series of wars between Maasai, known as Iloikop, the Laikipiak Maasai were severely fragmented and dispersed as refugees among other neighbouring groups, leaving Laikipia accessible for other groups [77]. ...
... 84). In 1911, a contentious process of coercion by the colonial government forced Maasai leaders to sign the Maasai Agreement, in which they agreed to leave their northern territories and instead receive state-acknowledged exclusive rights to the Southern Maasai Reserve [77]. Colonial administrators marked the Southern Maasai Reserve, and its boundary, as a Native Reserve on the cartographic maps. ...
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Across contemporary East Africa, fencing is spreading with incredible speed over hundreds of thousands of hectares of rangelands, fundamentally reconfiguring land tenure dynamics. But why is this happening now, what are the precursors, and what will happen in the years to come? In this article, we ask how pre- and post-colonial landscape gridding perpetuate a slow violence across the landscape through processes of de-/fencing. Fencing, we argue, is embedded in a landscape logic that favours exclusive rights and conditioned access. In two case studies from grazing lands in Kenya, we explore how people engage with the tension of an imposed landscape logic of fencing by either asserting or challenging its very physicality. We propose that de-/fencing are ways of anticipating long-standing land tenure uncertainties. Moreover, we use our cases to explore different points of reference along the mattering of land tenure boundaries as well as the sort of horizons to which fencing leads. We also use this knowledge to improve our understanding of parallel prehistoric cases of large-scale land tenure boundaries. By unfolding the intertwined socio-political and material nature of gridded landscapes, we seek to bring the study of fencing out of conservation literature and into its wider culture-historical context.
... Maasai in Kenya and Tanzania are often upheld as traditional custodians of wildlife because they have historically shared land with large wildlife populations (Parkipuny and Berger 1993). However, Maasai relationships with wildlife have transformed over time, having been profoundly impacted by colonial and independent state conservation and land policies (Hughes 2006, Steinhart 2006. Game reserves for wealthy European and American hunters were established throughout Maasai-occupied lands during the colonial era. ...
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Categorically distinct instrumental values and non-instrumental "cultural" values of "nature" are central to ecosystem services assessments and many wildlife conservation interventions alike. However, this approach to understanding the value of nature is at odds with social scientific understandings that see value as produced through social-ecological relations and processes. With a case study of Ilkisongo Maasai land users living in group ranches surrounding Amboseli National Park in southern Kenya, we apply a relational values approach to highlight the processes of valuation that shape how different people within Maasai society come to have different shared values of wildlife and collectively titled land. First, we detail how wildlife conservation efforts in Amboseli have affected social relations through uneven conservation decision-making processes and unequal distribution of benefits from conservation. Second, we detail how conservation practices have directly influenced changing relationships between people and wildlife. Neglect of elders' common stances on how relations "ought" to be maintained (both human-human and human-nonhuman relations), and many Maasai residents' views of the "ownership" of wildlife by a minority have both fueled resentment. We show that an ironic, unintended outcome is that conservation projects, which are intended to increase the "value" of wildlife for local people as a way to foster "coexistence" of people and wildlife on collectively titled lands, are instead contributing to an increased desire by some Maasai for wildlife to be spatially separated from people and livestock. Simultaneously, current conservation projects do not build upon practices that in Maasai views, enabled historical sharing of land with wildlife. Inequality and lack of participation have been highlighted as key limitations of many community-based conservation and human-wildlife conflict mitigation initiatives. We instead focus on how wildlife conservation interventions have contributed to changing human-human and human-nonhuman relations and have in turn impacted long-term Maasai perceptions of wildlife. We argue that an expanded consideration of relational values that emphasizes the inseparability of culture and nature, but also includes a central consideration of power dynamics, might overcome some limitations of previous valuation approaches.
Often conservationists suffer from the ‘shifting base line syndrome’. We illustrate this by elucidating the natural history of Tanzania’s northern Rift Valley over the past centuries. White rhinoceros and possibly the sable antelope went extinct five centuries ago. Two centuries ago Maasai cattle started competing with plains wildlife, but a reset took place through diseases. Wildlife’s zenith was around 1935, before commercial agriculture arose and before people and livestock had recovered from devastating epidemics. Elephant populations recovered from the ivory trade; wildlife benefitted from the expanding range of the tsetse fly. From the 1920s until the 1980s, cattle numbers soared and most fresh water became monopolized by farmers or pastoralists. Unlike in the Serengeti grasslands, the great herbivore migrations that could have developed after the rinderpest eradication were not attained in the grasslands of the northern Rift Valley: in fact, the wildebeest and zebra migrations to a large extent disappeared. It appears that conservationists who have fallen victim to the shifting baseline syndrome are content with the current impoverished natural state. Consequently, with the memory gone and baselines shifted, it is likely that the true natural state of the ecosystem of the northern Rift Valley will not be restored.
Based on ethnographic research among the Samburu of northern Kenya, this article examines the association between formal education and the abandonment of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). It challenges the notion that Samburu continue cutting out of “ignorance” of the health and legal implications of cutting. The findings show that, rather than a causal effect of “knowledge” on cutting-related attitudes and behavior, formal education can replace FGM/C as a source for status, respect, and adulthood. In addition, alternative expectations apply to formally educated Samburu. Challenging the reproduction of the “ignorant pastoralist” narrative in anticutting campaigns is important because of the harm such narratives inflict on pastoralist communities.
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Culture is a fascinating phenomenon that touches upon every sphere of human activity. What is more, it is present in every aspect of human activity since culture defines the way people live, think and act. In any case, being such a complex phenomenon, it is still easy and interesting to perceive when it is presented in a variety of separate elements that refer to a specific cultural aspect. This monograph is an attempt to present culture in its variety and in its complexity. It tries to presents understanding of culture in terms of personality and ethnic groups, it gives historical perspective and even presents the potential for its future growth. All of these aspects are given within the framework of ethnocultural psychology, which is viewed as a science about ethnicity, personality and culture. The book starts with the historical review of ethnocultural psychology and its origins. It all started hundreds of years ago and nowadays this discipline has achieved a lot. It has four main branches: cross-cultural psychology, cultural psychology, cultural anthropology and indigenous psychology. Every branch is dedicated to the research of culture in its richness and complexity, but at the same time, every branch allows to view cultural elements separately from each other and from psychological perspective. This monograph provides overview of every branch and its specificity, together with the description of the current state of the discipline. Another important aspect is the connection between culture and psychic processes: the monograph tries to show that almost every psychological process in one way or another is linked to culture. Despite the idea that culture may have an impact only on higher processes, it leaves its footprint on lower processes as well. For example, perception has a tendency to be dependent on cultural specificity. This book explains main reasons behind those differences and shows how psychic processes are reflected in culture and through culture. 430 Abstract Emotions are very important for entire human race. At the same time, they are also important for every specific culture. In the book we show the main differences in emotions among cultures, countries and nations. It covers main similarities and differences, together with presenting main approaches to understanding emotions from cultural perspective. Culture has also a variety of dimensions that present and describe it. This monograph covers cultural syndromes as way to describe culture and explain what it is. In addition, it focuses on morality as the regulative norm for societies and cultures. Mental diseases are also a part of culture and the book covers the main reasons behind their emergence and their projections inside different cultures. What is more, culture may also cause certain diseases and some of them may emerge only in local communities, so this monograph presents those diseases and shows its symptoms. Finally, culture is empty without social interactions because they define what culture actually is and how it can be studied. In the book we talk about how to learn own culture and culture of other people, which difficulties might arise in these processes and what are the best strategies for achieving the most efficient results. Culture cannot exist without language and language is senseless without culture. The book opens up main connections between language and culture and explains, how they are related to each other. It also talks about ethnic stereotypes and the ways to avoid ethnocentrism, focuses on ethnic and cross-ethnic conflicts, together with the strategies for their resolution. This book presents a new approach to understanding culture: the authors have combined a variety of views on different aspects and have gathered them in one place for you. The most recent researches are combined with classic studies and it has never been done before. After reading this book you may state that you’ve got a chance to know culture from the inside and from the most psychological perspective.
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In 2012, three male elders in Tanzania filed a lawsuit against the government and a foreign investor for trespassing, justifying the case as rightful resistance to land grabbing. Based on ethnographic research, however, Chung argues that their action is more appropriately understood as gendered lawfare; the plaintiffs drew on their multiple positions of privilege to exclude a diverse array of legitimate resource users, including their wives. Their lawfare was not only perverse in its design, but also in its effects. It increased the uncertainties surrounding the rights and status of local people and reinforced intersecting inequalities within the “local” itself.
am thinking in particular of the Hodgson-edited collection Rethinking Pastoralism in
am thinking in particular of the Hodgson-edited collection Rethinking Pastoralism in Africa (2000).
Also quoted in my article, 'Fight for the forbidden land
Personal communication. Also quoted in my article, 'Fight for the forbidden land', Sunday Times Magazine (London: 4 January 2004).
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to Lord Avebury
  • Chris Mullin
Chris Mullin MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to Lord Avebury, 23 March 2005.
Part of my Conclusion has been published as an article, and will not be duplicated here. See 'Malice in Maasailand: The Historical Roots of Current Political Struggles
Part of my Conclusion has been published as an article, and will not be duplicated here. See 'Malice in Maasailand: The Historical Roots of Current Political Struggles', African Affairs, 104/415 (April 2005), pp. 207-224.