Sengwers’ rights violated – Amnesty | The Star, Kenya Skip to main content
August 20, 2018

Sengwers’ rights violated – Amnesty

Men from the Sengwer community protest against their eviction from their ancestral lands in Embobut Forest, as part of the government's forest conservation efforts, April 19, 2016.  /THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/KATY MIGIRO
Men from the Sengwer community protest against their eviction from their ancestral lands in Embobut Forest, as part of the government's forest conservation efforts, April 19, 2016. /THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/KATY MIGIRO

The state violated the human rights of the indigenous Sengwer community in Embobut Forest, Amnesty International has said.

The international rights group made the observations in a preliminary report released on Monday in Iten.

The group has been on a fact-finding mission in Embobut for three years, reigniting debate on eviction of the hunter-gathers.

Sengwer community secretary Elias Kimaiyo said on Monday Amnesty had established that the community’s rights were violated by the state through killings, arbitrary arrests and destruction of houses during evictions.

Amnesty also said the community was not consulted when the state compensated them in 2014.

One herder was reported shot dead by Kenya Forest Service wardens on January 16. This sparked outrage, leading to suspension of a Sh3.6 billion conservation grant from the European Union.

“The report confirms our cries that there was no genuine consultative dialogue during evictions and compensations,” Kimaiyo said.

The forest dwellers were paid Sh410,000 each to move out. This took place in a ceremony presided over by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

But Kimaiyo said the Sengwer community were not aware of the purpose of the compensation.

He said the community went to court to stop the compensation process and resulting eviction. But the state continued with evictions before the case was concluded.

Kimaiyo said there are no documents to show the Sengwer community agreed to any compensation and eviction from the forest.

“Why did the Sengwer community go to court to stop the compensation process if the community had reached an agreement with the government?” he asked.

Kimaiyo said a task force formed by former Forest minister Noah Wekesa recommended a land-to-land settlement and asked why the recommendation was changed without their knowledge.

He said the state assumed everyone was Sengwer. Only 740 of 2,784 persons compensated in 2014 were Sengwers, Kimaiyo said. Some illegal settlers were displaced by landslides, some are farmers, he said.

Hunter-gathers don’t destroy forests like the others, Kimaiyo said.

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