EU suspends Sh3.6 billion water project over Sengwer rights abuses

A fire at Embobut forest from where members of the indigenous Sengwer community are being evicted. /Stanley Magut
A fire at Embobut forest from where members of the indigenous Sengwer community are being evicted. /Stanley Magut

The EU has suspended its Sh3.6 billion water towers initiative with Kenya following violent Sengwer community evictions, ambassador Stefano Dejak has said.

In a statement on Wednesday, Dejak said the union had warned against use of force by

Kenya Forest Service guards

in Embobut Forest.

KFS wardens shot dead a herder while evicting the Sengwer community from the forest on Tuesday, sparking outrage.

Locals said the security officers also critically injured another herder when they stormed the forest at Kisitona area in Kapyego ward.

This came barely a week after the EU called for dialogue to end the row over the ongoing eviction.

The European Union urged state authorities to hold talks with members of the indigenous Sengwer community.

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"Yesterday's shooting took place after we had formally alerted Kenya's government. Accordingly, we are now suspending the support to the Water Towers Programm."

The ambassador noted the EU insists on full respect for the rights of indigenous people and added that the conservation work on the water towers was never expected to involve any evictions or use of violence.

"EU staff have been following up on reports, which began more than a year ago, concerning abuses of indigenous people's rights in the conservation areas, as there were claims that these were linked to the EU's support," he said.

The EU-funded programme is the Water Towers Protection and Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Programme.

Launched in June 2016, the programme has provided technical support and funding to the national government, counties and several government agencies.

This seeks to protect ground supplies of water, which are known as water towers, in the Mount Elgon and the Cherangani Hills areas of Kenya.

The water towers store rainwater, enable regular river flows, recharge ground-water storage, improve soil fertility, reduce erosion and sediment in river water, and host a diverse species of plants and animals.

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