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A real Kenyan ‘safari’

29 January 2015

Frederick Womakuyu, MRG’s Africa Information Officer, reports back from an emotional trip escorting young EU13 journalists to visit a remote and marginalised Kenyan indigenous community.

Day four saw our participants experience a real Kenyan safari.

Our host, the Sengwer Indigenous People’s Programme, headed by the community Chairman Paul Kibet, was to brief us about the Sengwer and the next day’s programme.

Indeed, he traced the Sengwer origin, the culture, customs and tradition, making the journalists very excited to ask one question after another.

Then he spoke about the travel to prepare the young journalists. He spoke about what to wear – safari boots, warm clothing – because their place is extremely cold and he also spoke about time.

Young European journalists at work at a remote and marginalised Kenyan indigenous community.
Young European journalists at work at a remote and marginalised Kenyan indigenous community.

He explained to us that Sengwer people stay deep in the forest, so he strongly advised us that we should make the journey as early as 4am if we were to reach early. He also advised us to have packed lunch and breakfast.

The journalists were very excited about everything and vowed to oblige.

As early as 4am, we were on the road with all the necessities. By 8am we had reached the Sengwer land. Extremely remote, cold and cut off almost from the rest of Kenya. There was an extremely poor road network, and a lack of electricity, schools and health.

Our participants were excited but very sad due to this marginalisation – yet we had not seen the worst.

Before we entered into the forest, Paul briefed us again about the 10 kilometres journey over a sharp hill that looked like a mountain itself.

But the journalists were very excited and couldn’t wait to experience the real Kenyan safari.

A member of the Sengwer community by the fireplace.
A member of the Sengwer community by the fireplace.

By 9am, we were deep into the forest, jumping over rocks, very fresh and clean beautiful water streams and the journalists were excitedly capturing as many images as possible. We walked over dead tree trunks and very sharp slopes that slowed down our movement to the extent that by 11am we had not even made it to the summit of the dense equatorial forest, where our hosts had been pushed to, harassed and their houses burnt by government agents.

Almost halfway through the journey, the participants asked to rest and even consumed their packed lunch together with the breakfast…

At midday, we made it to our destination, but our hosts’ homes were still a few kilometres away. But when we finally reached, the participants were received as heroes – they had made a journey that no other visitors had ever succeeded, and they were given a new name – ‘The Friends of Sengwer.’

The journalists started with interviews with community members, and had enough time to ask whatever they wanted. They even had time to relax in the very cold weather of the Sengwer – very different from the dry and hot weather of our origin in Nairobi and Eldoret.

The journalists were horrified by the cruelty the Sengwer face on a daily basis – being harassed and tortured by government agents, their houses burnt with the aim of pushing them out of their forest. They are now enemies with government agents whenever they see them, they run for their life into caves, tree trunks and polythene structures, which have turned into their houses.

Group shot of Sengwer community and European journalists
Members of the Sengwer community welcome young European journalists in their midst.

The formal ceremony came at the end when the journalists introduced themselves and resolved to pursue the case of the Sengwer to the logical conclusion. MRG also promised to continue working with the Sengwer community to protect their rights. We then took a group photo with the excited journalists and the Sengwer, and departed at 4pm.

It was an emotional departure – the journalists had developed a bond with the Sengwer community and couldn’t depart easily.

But we had to go and reached our hotel in Eldoret at 9pm. Everyone was tired, so we had dinner and went to rest and reflect on the day’s journey.

This article reflects the opinion of its author only and does not engage MRG’s responsibility.