In Kenya, the mandate of the Special Rapporteur has long-standing concerns over the situation of several Indigenous Peoples, including the Sengwer, Ogiek, and Maasai, in particular in relation to conservation and climate change projects. In the past two years, there has been an escalation of violence in the Embobut forest where the Kenya Forest Service has repeatedly evicted and burned Sengwer homes as well as arrested community members. These acts have taken place despite the fact that the Sengwer are in litigation challenging the evictions and an injunction was issued preventing such evictions in the interim. Several Sengwer have been shot by the Kenya Forest Service, including one herder who was killed in January 2018. The European Commission funded a climate change project in the area, with the Kenya Forest Services among the recipients of funding. The Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples made a public call for the project to ensure respect for human rights, and the European Commission decided to suspend the climate change project pending an assessment of its human rights compliance.
The landmark judgement in favor of the Ogiek peoples in Kenya by the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights issued in May 2017 affirms the Ogieks’ collective rights to the Mau Forest and sends a strong signal in the region that indigenous land rights are to be protected and forced evictions halted.
TESTIMONY FROM THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR’S
CRIMINALIZATION SUMMIT IN GENEVA IN MARCH 2018
Ogiek Peoples Development Programme (OPDP)
Daniel Mpoiko Kobei (0:00 – 7:23)
1:25: “One of the greatest problems we are facing in Kenya is the issue of corruption among the police, that the offenders always get support from the police if you have money. That means you can be protected—even when you have done something wrong, you can still be protected. I want to give an example of one of the Ogiek was killed two years ago because he was defending his land, or rather he wanted to pick things, the properties were removed, were taken away, some were burnt down, and he was shot at close range. The police protected the person [who shot him] and took him in and gave him protection all the way to safe custody.”
4:01: “The name conservation in Kenya is a term being used put in people who are not indigenous to get land, but in the place they are saying this for conservation. This has happened in Mau Forest Complex, in my places where the Sengwer or the Ogiek are said to be in government land. In the real sense they want to bring in other new people.”
Indigenous Movement for Peace Advancement and Conflict Transformation (IMPACT)
Ole Kaunga (7:23-13:05)
8:30: "For the first time in history, we have had the Kenyan army being used to kill livestock as a way to create economic suffering for pastoralists."
Sengwer Indigenous Peoples Programme
15:13: “29th March last year a human rights group from Brussels and Nairobi assisted inside the forest. When they left the Kenyan Forest Service were not happy about the human rights stories being submitted, because before when evictions had been going on, a number of institutions in government like the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights and the National Land Commission had been trying to go and meet the communities in the forest. But the government denied them entry to go and meet with these communities. Even Amnesty International and other groups have tried to get into the forest, but they were refused. It was unfortunate during this day that when the EU officer went and met with the community members that now the Kenyan Forest Service retaliated, burnt homes, and shot guns. On 2nd February one of the community members who had been recording all the violations was attacked and even as we speak now he is undergoing reconstructive surgery. He was hit by a gun and still undergoing surgery.”
19:43: “On the 16th January a member of the Sengwer community was shot dead by the KFS scouts in the forest and another was injured and taken to the hospital. Because when that man was shot dead by the KFS scouts that was when the EU stopped funding. When you speak to the Sengwer community and even the organizations that are supporting the community, we have been branded as those who supporting the bandits, the ones that are arming and supplying guns to the bandits in the forest. These accusations are false. We are just against what is going on.”