Benet advocacy for their cultural rights

 

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Policy Brief 2014 was important informal education of the youth in Kumosop, our language. Marriage was discussed and determined by parents and elders. Other forms of cultural identity included removing two lower teeth (in the event of illness, a patient was fedthrough the gap). Our forefathers were herders, fruit gatherers and hunters and we had developed knowledge to use forest resources sustainably, including honey harvesting, preserving water for bees, and making use of medicinal herbs and of fallen timber for house construction. In 1936, part of Mt Elgon was designated as a forest reserve by the colonial administration (it became a National Park in 1993), but the Benet-Ndorobo stayed inside the reserve. Our number grew and we started subsistence agriculture, an activity later considered incompatible with the mountain’s fragile ecosystem. In 1983 we were evicted and relocated on the lower slopes of Mt. Elgon, in a small area between Rivers Kere and Kaptakwoi, in the two current districts of Kween and Kapchorwa. “The mountain is essential to our cultural identity” “...we have depended on Mount Elgon for our physical, cultural and spiritual well-being since time immemorial. We have a special, deep-rooted relationship to this land; for us the forest is a life-line which keeps alive our past, strengthens our present and safeguards our future,” Moses Mwanga, Benet leader, quoted in “Mountain of Trouble”, ActionAid, 2009. Other Benet remained in Kapsekek in Bukwo district. With more evictions up until 2008, the majority of the Benet now live on the 6,000 hectare resettlement area allocated by Government. This resettlement was accompanied with difficulties and injustices, and some Benet have still not been permanently resettled. “The forest has changed hands- we have been evicted” The Mount Elgon forest is still being depleted by illegal loggers. The Benet have been relocated to a settlement scheme, away from their cultural sites. 2

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