The Ogiek People

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Information about the Ogiek people and their language

Ogiek people have a language called Ogiek. The singular for Ogiek is Ogiot. Ogiek people are classified under the Nilo-hamatic speakers. Previously many writers and Kenyans in particular use to call Ogiek derogatively as Dorobo a word derived from Masaai people Ildorobo meaning a poor man without cattle. Ogiek people have language considered to be having both Maasai and Kalenjin people words but with an absolute different dialect and of course different culture and traditions. It’s because of this affinity with the two major communities that the Ogiek are at risk of their language being lost at an alarming rate. Ogiek people are minority in the Districts which the Maasai and the Kalenjin are the majority. The districts are Narok(Maasai/Kipsigis), Nakuru(Kipsigis) Nandi Hills(Nandi)and Mt. Elgon(Sabaot). In these districts the Ogiek people are found but as a minority. Apart from the Masaai all the other three are Kalenjin speakers who are Pastoralist and Agriculturist while Ogiek remain as hunter- gatherer community, contemporarily known as the forest dwellers. The assimilation of the Ogiek people has been contributed by the following: 1) Land grabbing by the well to do communities, hence entering forcefully into our territories using government influence. Politically, these communities are well represented in the parliament while the Ogiek people have not been represented for over 40 years of the independent Kenya from the colonial government. Needless to say Ogiek people have lived like refugees in their ancestral lands. 2) Forest depletion-Due to forest depletion in the Mau forest complex, where the majority of Ogiek people dwell, they were exposed to agriculturist inflŭ, this brought a negative impact to the Ogiek people, who for along time they had not mix with other communities. The communities had support of politically right people, hence they encroach the forest. They cut down trees, burn and others started lumbering with the help of multinational companies e.g Timsales Amalgamated company Limited, Raiply Company and Pan-paper Company 3) Intermarriages has been a contributing factor to the untold suffering of a rich Ogiek language. In some areas Ogiek language has ceased to be a spoken language but regarded as one of the prehistoric languages. When we visit some of the areas some our fellow Ogiek people by name are mesmerized by our outstanding authority to our language. They always say “please teach us our language?” and the question is “who taught you our language?”. For us we sympathize a lot with their inability to speak our language, more so the fact that you have to use national language to communicate to them. In other words language is identity, without it nobody can identify with another. 4) Inferiority complex due to the fact most Ogiek children who manage to go to school are bullied by the pupils that they are speaking an inferior language. Those of the uncivilized people of the forest, who they were term as prehistoric language or nicknamed as the Stone Age languages due to it dialect and unpopularity.

The Ogiek population is approximately 22,000 people (No census so far give figure of Ogiek, this is because nobody could reach them for national census. The national census classified Ogiek in the category of others, this are the small and unknown communities in Kenya). In Kenya there is no school which can accept to teach Ogiek Mother Tongue apart from two which Ogiek are teaching as headmasters in those primary schools. The two schools are poorly managed due to the economical situation in Ogiek land.

Ogiek people are among the poorest people in Kenya due to high level of illiteracy and their lifestyle of hunting and gathering, which is considered by the Government of Kenya as unsustainable. The government have also demonize hunting and termed it as poaching. The illiteracy rate of the Ogiek is about 98% with 95% living below poverty line meaning they earn less than a dollar a day. It worthy nothing that until 1994 Ogiek people were called Dorobo even by the so called the learned, it was after this that Ogiek civil society members through the media advertise the name the called themselves i.e Anthropologists Scholars like Dr. Corinne Kratz misspelled Ogiek name to “Okiek” which with Ogiek pronunciation is different, he did is PHD research in the late 70s in Narok district.

Ogiek as an ethnic community has not written anything in their language or translated documents to Ogiek language.

Our Address is as shown our letterhead above i.e

Daniel M. Kobei
Ogiek People Development Programe(OPDP)
P.O BOX 622-20500
Tel 254-50-23185/254-722 433 757