SAVING WATER TOWERS

Sh3.6bn Embobut project hangs in balance as deadline lapses

EU had given the government up to September 24 to get its house in order or risk losing the amount

In Summary

• EU had suspended project in the face of mounting evidence that its funds were being used to carry out violent human rights violations.

• In 2018, KFS mounted a raid in Embobut Forest, where the Sengwer indigenous people live, shooting and killing 41-year-old Robert Kiprotich and wounding another.

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

The dateline of the Sh3.6 billion EU-funded conservation project within Embobut Forest has elapsed.

In June, the EU gave the government up to September 24 to get its house in order or risk losing the amount.

The EU had suspended the Water Towers Protection and Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Programme in the face of mounting evidence that its funds were being used to carry out violent human rights violations.

 

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.

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

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

The project sought to protect water towers in 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 diverse species of plants and animals.

On June 25, 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 coming up with a lasting solution,” Kiptoo said then.

EU Ambassador Simon Mordue said the programme was suspended over non-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 said the EU insists on full respect for the rights of indigenous people and added that the conservation work on the water tower was never expected to involve any evictions or use of violence.

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

On Wednesday, Environment PS Kiptoo said good progress has been made.

“The ministry has worked hard as there has been a lot of effort to save the programme,” Kiptoo said.

He was non-committal on whether the funds will be suspended. 

A lobby has urged the government to grasp a win-win solution for forests and securing the funding.

Community Land Action Now (CLAN) said it is possible to protect both the environment and human rights. 

CLAN is a network of communities – including forest dwellers, hunter-gatherers and pastoralists – who speak on communities’ land rights.

The lobby said such a solution is good news for all Kenyans – not just for forest dwellers – because it lays the ground for a secure, strong and enduring partnership between the government and forest dwellers.

They want titles for the Ogiek of Mau and the Kapkok glade to be recognised as community lands for the Sengwer. 

 

Edited by R.Wamochie