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SEPTEMBER ULTIMATUM

EU warns the state against human rights abuses

Bloc says Kenya must before September 24, or it will lose Sh3.6 billion funding.

In Summary

• The EU suspended a multimillion-euro project in 2018 in the face of mounting evidence that its funds were being used to carry out violent human rights violations.

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

Sengwer houses set on fire by forest officers in Embobut.
Sengwer houses set on fire by forest officers in Embobut.
Image: FILE

The government has been given up to September 24 to put its house in order or risk losing Sh3.6 billion from the European Union.

The EU suspended a multimillion-euro conservation project in the face of mounting evidence that its funds were being used to carry out violent human rights violations.

Former EU Ambassador to Kenya Stefano Dejak said the union had warned against the use of force by Kenya Forest Service guards in Embobut Forest.

 

The suspension of the programme in 2018 came hours after guards working from the EU-funded KFS mounted a raid in Embobut Forest, where the Sengwer indigenous people live, shooting and killing 41-year-old Robert Kiprotich and wounding another.

The killing caused an uproar.

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.

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.

Last Thursday, Environment PS Chris Kiptoo formed a multi-agency team to spearhead talks. Kiptoo said the team will come up with a roadmap on how to resolve some of the issues flagged by the EU.

 

“The government is keen on having a lasting solution to the problem,” Kiptoo said.

EU Ambassador Simon Mordue told the Star in a separate interview at Kaptagat that the programme was suspended as there was no compliance with human rights obligations by the government.

“Dialogue should solve the matter as we need to find a solution that reconciles human rights with conservation,” Mordue said.

The envoy noted that 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.

The ambassador said it is important to conserve the vital water tower. However, the rights of the affected communities must also be respected.

Mordue noted good commitment and engagement from the ministry of environment and the county government. He said the Sengwer community too had expressed its willingness to dialogue.

Mordue said it was suggested to rapidly form a task force to go through all the issues in the complex equation.

“There is a sweet spot or a magical solution that can be found.”

The ambassador said the programme must come to an end September 24.