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January 21, 2019

Forest evictions destroying Sengwer’s culture – report

Sengwer people protesting eviction in 2016
Sengwer people protesting eviction in 2016

Evictions of the Sengwer community from Embobut Forest may destroy the culture of the community, a new report reveals.

The ‘Race Against Extinction’ report, compiled from interviews with the community said the community has lost its traditions and language during successive evictions.

The indigenous community living within Cherangany Hills, Embobut and Kabolet forests, protested government’s move early this year to evict them from their ancestral land. The move is intended to pave way for the Water Tower Project.

The community has been in a hide and seek game with the Kenya Forest Service officers seeking to evict them over deforestation since 2007.

The report said residents suffered at the hands of Kenya Forests Service officers. Some have sustained gunshot wounds during forced evictions and torching of their property.

Read: Sengwer oppose move to relocate livestock from Embobut Forest

Women have been badly affected. Document show that many Sengwer women were abandoned by their husbands after the forest dwellers received Sh400,000 each as payout to move out of the forest.

“Men left their wives and married younger women from the neighbouring Marakwet community, and squandered the money meant for buying alternative land,” the report said.

This exposed the women and children to physical abuse and violence after seeking refuge in other people’s homes after evictions.

According to the report, the evictions have further denied the Sengwer children the right to education leading to early marriage of the girls.

The report by National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders in May this year also shows he Sengwer were forcibly evicted every year since 2007.

The community has lived in Embobut Forest since the 1890s, and they were given permits by the British colonial government to stay in three glades, including Kapkok, Kaptirbai and Koropken.

Traditionally, the community were livestock and bee keepers.

Its members also occupy parts of West Pokot and Trans Nzoia and consist of 21 clans.

The 2009 census put the Sengwer community population at 33,187. 

Earlier this year a report by Amnesty International revealed how the minority community were allegedly brutalised by security agencies during forcible evictions. The state, according to the report, conducted a compensation that discriminated against the Sengwer.

More: Sengwer to petition UN over human rights violations in Embobut Forest

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