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DAILY NATION
Monday, May 26, 2003 

Ethnic minorities, especially the Waata, treated shoddily

On behalf of the numerical minorities - the Waata community of northern Kenya, Munyo of Tana River, Ogiek, Konso, Sengwer - I wish to congratulate Narc for its wonderful triumph over the dictatorial Kanu regime. 

The Waata and our Rift Valley brothers living in Tinet forest consider this victory as a signal of a new beginning and the rebirth of our lost tribal identities, histories and cultural lifestyle. 

Just like the Ogoni of southern Nigeria and the Bushmen of Kalahari Desert, the Waata are a hunter-gatherer tribe and conservators of wildlife. However, despite the evidence, both the pre-and post-colonial governments have failed to recognise the Waata as a tribal entity and continued to register them under the dominant Borana, Gabra and Orma tribes. 

The community lacks both civil and parliamentary representatives to protect them and articulate their interests. The Waata people take great pride in the Narc government under the leadership of President Mwai Kibaki, and unlike in the past, we now face the future with hope and confidence that our identity is going to be restored. 

We wish to bring two problems to the attention of President Kibaki. 

The previous regime marginalised the minorities and left them out of development efforts because they are seen to add little value to the global economic system. 

This, compounded by ethnic discrimination especially in employment and prejudice often reflected in erroneous and pejorative names, has contrived to make the community less equal than others. Therefore, we demand: 

* The nomination of a Waata representative to the National Assembly and civic leaders to the local authority. In the past, the Waata have been exploited by politicians from the dominant communities. 

* Secondly, the Waata should be recognised as an independent tribal entity. This implies that they should be separately enumerated during national censuses and when registering for national identity cards. To avoid extinction, we totally reject the so-called assimilation. 

In past elections, selfish politicians from other tribes promised to address our problems. However, the promises were forgotten as soon as the election results were out. It is shameful that these disadvantaged groups are used by political competitors as mere objects to give them additional votes. 

We believe the President will agree with us that our plight should be addressed in relationship with their basic human rights and not in relation with politics alone. 

We noted that during his inauguration speech, the President said all Kenyans had equal opportunities regardless of their religious affiliations, race, or ethnic background and status. 

We hope justice and fairness will prevail as we wait for the constitutional review to be completed. Let the delegates deliberate on our welfare even as they look at the welfare of the country at large. 

The only way to safeguard the welfare of the Waata and other minority communities is to see that some form of affirmative action is taken. 

ALI BALLA BASHUNA, 
Indigenous Waata People's Organisation, 
Marsabit.