Eselenkei and Olgulului’s Lion Guardians Coordinator Eric, tells about the committee elections on Eselenkei Group Ranch, and why they are so different and special.
Eselenkei Group Ranch was officially declared in 1983. It covers 74,794 hectares and has around 2000 registered members. It is communally owned, predominantly by pastoralist Maasai and is situated to the north of Amboseli National Park. Many Group Ranches have been dissolved but Eselenkei, and others within the Amboseli ecosystem (shown below) are still communally owned.
The Ranch is governed by a 10 member management committee who control allocation of resources, grazing patterns and help solve disputes as well as attending meetings on behalf of members. The officials are either renewed or others elected in an annual general meeting from time to time. Here is a typical community meeting.
The General meeting in Eselenkei was scheduled for March 10th. As in any other election, tension and suspense preceded the actual date. Elections were fiercely contested by many opinion leaders who considered themselves eligible for a seat on the committee. Usually Group Ranch elections are either by secret ballot or queue voting, but these voting systems often lead to decisions being made on the basis of clan or sub-clan (Maasai are not just part of the Maasai tribe, but there are also various Maasai clans and sub-clans). It has the ability to cement divisions between clans and sub-clans, and often leads to bitter permanent rifts, hatred and bad blood.
However, elections in Eselenkei Group Ranch have been different for the last 27 years of its existence. This small Group Ranch as opposed to others in Kenya designed a unique election system that ensures fairness and proper representation of all clans in the Ranch called “election by consensus”.
Potential candidates are subjected to vigorous scrutiny by registered ranch members for several days until agreeable candidates, endorsed by everyone are identified. Any rifts are exhaustively addressed and warring factions reconciled before Government election officials are summoned to give the elections an official stamp of approval.
This unique system ensures peaceful co-existence, brotherhood and a strong unity of purpose. It strengthens the bonds that hold this community together and fosters a spirit of shared identity. It has made Eselenkei Group Ranch an island of peace in a sea of turbulence.