Indigenous groups, lobbyists condemn Ogiek evictions, call for dialogue

State is evicting the Ogiek from the complex on the premise of conservation efforts

In Summary

• The Sengwer Council of Elders on Wednesday urged the government to stop evictions and any form of human rights violations

• Indigenous Women Council says it is concerned by the continued human rights violations, including the Ogiek’s lack of recognition as an indigenous community

A house demolished by KFS rangers in Marioshoni.
DEMOLISHED: A house demolished by KFS rangers in Marioshoni.

Various lobbyists and indigenous peoples continue to condemn the ongoing evictions of the Ogiek community from the Mau Complex. 

The Sengwer Council of Elders on Wednesday urged the government to stop evictions and any form of human rights violations subjected to the Ogiek indigenous peoples of Mau Forest. 

Instead, the elders led by chairman Paul Kiptum called on the government to convene a dialogue in consultations with the Ogiek Council of Elders and the Ogiek Peoples Development Programme. 

This, Kiptum said in a statement, will help a framework for sustained restoration and protection of Mau Forest Complex, while respecting, recognising and protecting the rights of the Ogiek to live in, govern, control and manage their ancestral lands, their community lands as stipulated in Article 63 (2) (d) (ii) of the Constitution. The provision states that community land consists of among others "ancestral lands and lands traditionally occupied by hunter-gatherer communities". 

"When planning to restore and protect Mau Forest Complex – remember, the Ogiek indigenous peoples are part of the ecosystem and biodiversity," Kiptum said.

"The Ogiek people want to live by their bylaws and to care for their forests. They can’t do that if they are evicted and replaced by a government agency."

Numbering around 30,000 people, the Ogiek are a hunter-and-gatherer forest-dwelling community and survive mainly on forest resources such as wild fruits and roots, game hunting and traditional beekeeping. They consider Mau Forest their ancestral home. 

According to Kiptum, forest peoples such as the Sengwer and the Ogiek have rich traditional forest-related knowledge that will help protect and restore their forests. 

"There will be no meaningful conservation in Mau Forest Complex without the Ogiek people who have been the custodians since time immemorial. Ogiek are not encroachers nor aliens neither are they internally displaced persons, but the indigenous peoples, the aborigines, the natives of Mau Forest Complex,” he said.  

The government is evicting the Ogiek from the complex on the premise of conservation efforts. 

Daniel Kobei, the executive director, of Ogiek Peoples' Development Program, on Thursday said that on Wednesday, Kenya Wildlife rangers burned close to 10 homes in Sasimwani, despite the ongoing heavy rains. 

"This is sad, especially for our young mothers and children. Elnino is here, they are being rained on, helpless. Mr President, please help the Ogiek, stop the eviction and Implement the Ogiek judgement,” Kobei said. 

In May 2017, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in a ruling found that the Ogieks’ rights to property and natural resources, non-discrimination, religion, culture and development had been violated through the evictions.  

The court also said the preservation of the Mau Forest could not justify the lack of recognition of Ogieks’ indigenous or tribal status, nor the denial of the rights associated with that status.  

Additionally, the Ogiek community could not be held responsible for the depletion of the Mau Forest, nor could it justify their eviction or the denial of access to their land to exercise their right to culture. 

In June 2022, the African court delivered a reparations ruling, ordering the government to pay the community Sh57.8 million in compensation for the loss of property and natural resources, and Sh100 million for moral prejudice suffered due to violations of the right to non-discrimination, religion, culture and development. It also ordered the government to stop any further violations. 

In this regard, the Sengwer elders want the government to implement the two rulings and compensate families whose houses and property were destroyed in the Sasimwani area in Narok.  

The Sengwer are adding to the voice of other lobby groups, among them the Kenya Human Rights Commission, Indigenous Women Council and Friends of Zoka from Uganda.  

On Monday – national tree planting day -, KHRC said it was ironic that Kenya positions itself as the leading voice on climate change in Africa, yet it viciously evicts indigenous people who play a crucial role in the conservation of nature and are at the frontlines of the impacts of climate change.  

"This is the fate of the Ogiek in Kenya who face state-orchestrated evictions from their ancestral homes, despite the landmark judgments by the African Court of Human and People's Rights, recognizing their entitlement to live on their ancestral land in the Mau Forest and providing reparations for the material and moral harm suffered as a result of their marginalization and dispossession of their lands,” it said in a statement. 

The commission demanded the implementation of the two rulings and an end to the use of "exclusionary and militarised methods" in conservation that limit access to essential resources without offering fair or better alternatives.  

"This undermines people's fundamental rights and freedoms. We insist indigenous communities should be a top priority in climate action,” it said. 

The community of Friends of Zoka Forest called for the upholding of the indigenous right to identity and condemned any form of eviction of the Ogiek. 

The Ugandan NGO termed the evictions as "modern-day cultural dispossession akin to the slave trade or even in totality colonial era treatment". 

"We unequivocally stand in solidarity with the distressed Ogiek community and condemn in the strongest of terms the action of Kenyan government which contravenes domestic and international laws spelt in rights to own land, access and use of clean environment, access to clean water and other natural resources,” it said in a statement. 

The Indigenous Women Council says it is concerned by the continued human rights violations, including the Ogiek’s lack of recognition as an indigenous community, the lack of implementation of the judgments, the lifting of the land caveat, and the forced and illegal evictions in Sasimwani.  

"The threatened eviction of Nkareta Ogiek will also result in the total dispossession and homelessness of more than 800 persons. There are also threats against Ogiek living in parts of Eastern Mau Forest Block (Kiptunga),” the women's movement with more than 60 members organizations in 29 counties said in a statement. 

It called on the Kenya Forest Service and the Ministry of Environment and Climate, to stop the evictions immediately, coordinate a humanitarian response, investigate allegations of gender-based violence and implement the judgments in full.   

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