AMOS MPAKA: A DE­FENDER OF MI­NOR­ITY RIGHTS

AMOS OLE MPAKA / “The to­tal pop­u­la­tion of the Il­lichamus com­mu­nity is about 45,000. We live as if we have no rights and for many years not even the gov­ern­ment would rec­og­nize us.”

The Star (Kenya) - - Front Page - MATHEWS NDANYI @ndany­i_­math­ews

AMOS ole Mpaka fer­ried a goat from Baringo to the High Court in Nairobi and pa­raded it as part of ev­i­dence in a case his Illchamus com­mu­nity has filed against the state.

It is Mpaka who sued the state on be­half of the com­mu­nity, seek­ing dam­ages for the dam­age caused by the Ma­thenge weed planted by the state in Baringo to help curb de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion.

The weed has caused ex­ten­sive health and en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lems for both the peo­ple and an­i­mals in parts of the county.

“We brought the goat to Nairobi so that the judge could fully un­der­stand the harm caused by the weed to live­stock in Baringo,” says Mpaka, spokesman of the Il­lichamus com­mu­nity.

“The goat lost its teeth as an ef­fect of eat­ing the weed.”

Ole Mpaka also blames the weed for poi­sonous sub­stances that have led to some res­i­dents of Baringo hav­ing their legs am­pu­tated.

“The to­tal pop­u­la­tion of the Il­lichamus com­mu­nity is about 45,000. We live as if we have no rights and for many years not even the gov­ern­ment would rec­og­nize us.”

Fer­ry­ing the goat to court cast ole Mpaka as the pre­em­i­nent cru­sader for the rights of mi­nor­ity groups who still suf­fer from marginal­i­sa­tion in ev­ery re­spect, in­clud­ing po­lit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

But it has not been easy, as he has gone through threats, in­tim­i­da­tion and even phys­i­cal as­sault be­cause of his stand on the rights of mi­nori­ties.

He be­gan his ac­tivism while at Tenges High School, when ban­dits at­tacked the com­mu­nity at Maku­tani, killed more than 10 peo­ple and drove away a large stock of live­stock.

“I de­cided that I would stand for the rights our peo­ple, an­i­mals and plants along with all mi­nor­ity groups.”

He was recog­nised by elders who sold their goats and cat­tle as a con­tri­bu­tion to help him run for the Baringo South seat in 2007.

“The elders wanted me in Par­lia­ment so that I could ef­fec­tively fight for their rights,” he says. He lost but he has not given up the fight and will still vie for the same seat next year.

Ole Mpaka has mostly fo­cused on peace and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion through the Rift Valley Youth for Peace and De­vel­op­ment group, where he is the chair­man.

He is also a com­mis­sioner of the Catholic Peace and Jus­tice Com­mis­sion, where he cru­sades for peace through mo­bil­i­sa­tion of youth in the re­gion.

“THE ELDERS WANTED ME IN PAR­LIA­MENT SO THAT I COULD EF­FEC­TIVELY FIGHT FOR THEIR RIGHTS,”

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