Who are the Okiek People?

The Ogiek people are indigenous to the Mount Elgon forest region of Kenya.
The Ogiek people are indigenous to the Mount Elgon forest region of Kenya.

The Okiek People

The Okiek people are indigenous to the Mau and Mount Elgon forests in Kenya as well as the northern part of Tanzania. They are occasionally referred as the Akiek or Ogiek. Their population was believed to be 36,869 - however, the speakers of Akiek language was thought to be as low as 500.

Ogiek Language Dialects

They are more than three documented Ogiek dialects, but only three groups dominate. These are the Kinare, Sogoo, and Akiek.

The Kinare dialect is spoken at Kinare Place in Kenya which is part of the Rift valley slope. This dialect has unfortunately died out.

The Sogoo language, also referred as Sokoo, is spoken in southern part of Mau forest between river Ewaso Ng’iro and Amala as by the Heine 1973. Rottland, who followed the path of Bernd Heine, found Sogoo village in 1977 and indicated that there were other Sogoo villages based on what he was told by the occupants (Rottland 1982:25). These Sogoo speakers interact with its immediate neighbor Kipsigis, a sub-group of Kalenjin tribe and they can distinctively distinguish their language from the Kipsigis speakers.

Akiek is a dialect spoken in Tanzania by the smaller groups in the grassland of southern Arusha, a Maasai territory.

Socio-economic Activities

Beekeeping is traditionally a popular social and economic activity among people who identify as Ogiek. It was done by men, especially the elderly in the society. Young but aged men accompanied their fathers to the strategic points where log hives had been placed to learn the traditional ways of keeping bees and the trees to hung the beehives. They also practiced hunting and gathering to supplement the honey they harvest.

Land Disputes

The Ogiek people have raised many claims against the Kenyan government with regards to cruel treatment by illegally forcing them out of their native land. And in the year 2009, the Ogiek filed a case in the African Court on Human and People’s Rights in Arusha against the government of Kenya for the denial of their land and indigenous rights.


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