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Last Updated: Friday, 13 August, 2004, 18:55 GMT 19:55 UK
Kenya's Maasai demand land back
By Muliro Telewa
BBC correspondent in Nairobi

The Maasai want white farmers evicted when the lease expires
Maasai tribesmen have demonstrated in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, to demand the return of land leased to British settlers in colonial times.

Under the 100-year lease, which expires on Sunday, they say the land in the Rift Valley should revert to them.

Dressed in traditional regalia, the Maasai handed a petition to the Kenyan lands and justice ministries and demanded compensation from the UK.

Much of the land is farmed by ranchers and small-scale farmers.

Eviction demands

Outside the British High Commission in Nairobi, more than 300 men clad in their bright red traditional attire jumped up and down, as armed riot police barred them from getting into the building.

If [dialogue] does not work we are going to go to court both locally and at the Internal Court of Justice
Sydney Kuntai
Maasai spokesman
Following the treaty signed on 15 August 1904 by then East African Governor Sir Donald Stewart and Maasai Chief Laibon Olonana, the Maasai and their livestock moved off the land to make way for white settlers.

The one million hectare area is now subdivided among some white farmers, who own ranches, and black Kenyans, who practice small-scale farming.

The Maasai want the white farmers to be evicted and compensation from the British for the land occupied by the black farmers.

The Maasai Civil Society Group, which represents members of the community scattered in eight districts throughout Kenya, says if the demands are not met, it will consider legal action.

"If [dialogue] does not work we are going to go to court both locally and at the Internal Court of Justice," said Mr Sydney Kuntai an official of the group.

Neither the British high commissioner nor the Kenyan government have responded to the demands.

Demonstrations were also held in Nanyuki, in central Kenya, and Naivasha in the Rift Valley.

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