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The area now known as Kiambu was occupied by the Dorobo who owned it on the basis of hunting rights.
It was later acquired by Kikuyus who got it by outright purchase from them…
Because Dorobos lived in forests most of the land sold was uncut forest which they called “githaka”,and it was the duty of the purchaser to cut down the trees.
The prices varied according to the size of “githaka”.The lowest price was 30 goats going up to 300 or more .As they were hunters and gatherers ,meaning they never kept animals, all the goats paid by the buyer were taken to a relative, that is a Mkikuyu in whose family they had married for herding ,and whenever they required meat they would go and get them.
A man wishing to purchase Dorobo’s “githaka” first bought alcohol which they all drank while discussing the sale.once the transaction was made the buyer would be treated as a relative as in marriage and if there was a fight between them ,then a goat would be killed and both parties smeared with dung.
When Europeans started arriving in Kenya, Kiambu was amongst the first areas that were granted to them.This made Kikuyus to appear before the Kenya Land Commission of 1932 to present their land grievances.
While appearing before the same commission, John Ainsworth ,the man credited with building Nairobi, consistently opposed the notion by the Kikuyus that they owned Kiambu by purchasing it from the Dorobo.
In his opinion ,Kikuyus only started purchasing land from the Dorobos after they realised that as the land was not theirs, they would need to prove some title in future,to show that they obtained it from someone.
He claimed that the payments made by the Kikuyus to the Dorobo were “hongo” (bribery) “for a peaceful footing ,freedom from molestation and compensation for disturbance of rights to hunt and collect honey” ,also arguing that there was no way the Dorobo could sell their land to the extent of being landless.
One Dorobo called Turuthi Githira in an affidavit sworn before Mr J.D Mckean the District Commissioner Kiambu claimed:
"I am head of the Ndorobo.When Bwana Hall came to Fort Hall (Muranga) i was already a warrior
"I agree we sold land to the Kikuyu tribe .The land was sold outright ,but we could always return from time to time to the purchaser and get something as in a marriage case.Once selling a piece of land it was our custom to move off the piece sold but sometimes we did not move, but there was no trouble about it.
“The general way of marking out a boundary was to show the purchaser our game pits and telling him which ones he could not pass .Where there was no game pits,trees were marked and where there were no trees lillies were planted.We intermarried with Kikuyus they also married our girls.”
The following conversation also took place between the Chairman Kenya Land Commission and another Dorobo witness,
"Chairman: Can you tell us whether Dorobo were a subdivision of the Kikuyu or whether they were related to Kikuyus?
Witness: They have got some sort of relationship .My father told me that according to what he had always heard ,the Kikuyu and Dorobo were of the same race.
Chairman: Did your father sell any land ?
Witness: Yes where Mr Cane’s house is and other places where Europeans live .My father’s eldest brother was named Gitutu.As matters stand today we are like Kikuyu ,but my father and his brothers were true Dorobos."