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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 August, 2004, 11:15 GMT 12:15 UK
Nairobi police disperse Maasai
Police and Maasai protesters
The Maasai want white farmers off what they view as their land
Kenyan riot police have used tear gas to disperse more than 100 Maasai protesters in traditional outfits in the capital, Nairobi.

The Kenyan police said they used force because the protest was illegal.

The Maasai are demanding the return of farmland leased to British settlers 100 years ago.

The original lease expired last weekend on one million hectares of land but the government says it does not recognise the colonial era agreement.

"We have arrested quite a number of ringleaders and recovered knives from them because this meeting was illegal," Nairobi police chief Julius Ndegwa told AFP news agency.

Maasai leaders say up to 10 people were wounded in running battles.

A Maasai statement said their lawyers would take their fight to the Kenyan High Court and the International Court of Justice.

Protests

Over the weekend, Kenyan police shot dead a 70-year-old Maasai tribesman who was trying to graze his cattle on a white-owned farm.

Maasai
The Maasai want white farmers evicted
Four other herdsman were injured in the shooting which took place 40 km north of Nanyuki township in central Kenya. Police said 71 people, all believed to be Maasai land protesters, were arrested.

Last week the Maasai held demonstrations across Kenya.

The 99-year lease expired on 15 August.

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

The Maasai want the white farmers that remain to be evicted and are seeking compensation from the British.

The Kenyan government rejected their appeals.

Lands and Housing Minister Amos Kimunya said at the weekend that the government would not condone the occupation of private farms and ranches by any groups.

"It should be clear that those inciting the youth will face the full force of the law," he said.




SEE ALSO:
From herds to hairdressing
24 Jun 03  |  Africa
Maasai strike animal balance
15 Jan 04  |  Africa
Cattle invade Kenya's capital
15 Aug 00  |  Africa


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