Categories Africa, Alert, Kenya

Alert: Ogiek Indigenous Peoples of Mau-Narok are being evicted despite two African Court judgments in their favor

The ICCA Consortium strongly condemns this inexcusable violence against the Ogiek and stands in solidarity with the affected communities and our Member Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program as they seek justice

One of the many destroyed homes of the Ogiek community during the evictions in the morning of Thursday, 2 November 2023. Photo: Community member

First published on 11/02/2023, and last updated on 11/20/2023

By ICCA Consortium

Content warning: This alert contains distressing information about Indigenous Peoples facing forced evictions in Kenya, as well as photos of destroyed homes.

On 2 November 2023, reports from the Ogiek peoples of Sasimwani and Nkareta in Narok County, Kenya, indicate that the community is being evicted from their ancestral lands by the government of Kenya. This is despite an African Court judgment issued six years ago recognizing the Ogiek’s ownership of this land and a further 2022 African Court judgment specifying the land must be returned to them.

The ICCA Consortium strongly condemns this inexcusable violence against the Ogiek and stands in solidarity with the affected communities and our Member Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program as they seek justice.

The Ogiek are one of the hunter-gatherer Indigenous Peoples in Kenya. They live in and around the Mau Complex, their ancestral territory that has been and continues to be conserved and managed by past and current generations through their Indigenous knowledge systems.

The 26th day of October 2023 is the day the Ogiek received information about their possible evictions from their long-lived ancestral land in Narok County. This was done through a public notice by the Ministry of Environment and confirmation that operations had started by the Kenya Water Towers Agencies through a Facebook post. This was unexpected news for the community, to say the least.

For many months, they have been following up on the implementation of the May 2017 African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights judgment, which found the Ogiek are the owners of this land, and a June 2022 African Court judgment, which orders the government of Kenya should undertake a process of demarcation and delimitation to restitute the land to the Ogiek. More details about the case can be found here.

Daniel Kobei (Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program) speaking on Al Jazeera on 26 October 2023 about the looming evictions. Shared by OPDP on X (formerly Twitter)

Through a letter to the public, the Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program (OPDP, ICCA Consortium Member) expressed concerns of this eviction being encouraged or fueled by conservation funding allocated for the protection of the Kenya water towers; the Mau Forest complex is one of these towers. Since the onset of the evictions, it has been confirmed by media reports that the evictions are linked to a carbon trade deal signed between the Government of Kenya and Blue Carbon, a Dubai-based offsetting firm. It is deeply concerning that even when the Ogiek have sought justice and have African Court decisions backing the restitution of their lands, the government of Kenya instead threatens to remove the ancestral owners of the land – allegedly in the name of ‘conservation’. On the contrary, the Ogiek are the true protectors and defenders of their territory and the land, forests, water, wildlife and all other gifts of life within it.

Since the eviction notice on 26 October, the Ogiek – through their council of elders and the leadership of OPDP – have tried to reach out to many government offices, independent commissions like the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, the National Gender and Equality Commission and the Commission of Administrative Justice. Elders seeking help from these commissions and offices have expressed concerns of not readily finding support or help.

Attempts to meet the County Governor of Narok County have not borne fruits since he is said to be avoiding meetings and discussions with the elders of the Ogiek.

John Sironga, Chair of the Ogiek council of elders, speaks out against the threatened evictions. Video: Community Land Action Now via YouTube

During an interview with a national television in Kenya, the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change, and Forestry indicated that the current operations to remove communities from forests will continue. She says this is to help the government protect forests, even as Kenyans participated in a national tree plantation exercise on 13 November 2023. In her responses, the government of Kenya is planning to intensify the militarization of forest conservation and to keep Indigenous Peoples out of the territories of life to which they belong. She alluded to the plans to have the evictions be a “once and for all” exercise, which will be made possible by fencing off forests and wetlands. These are all against the judgment of the African Court, Kenya’s commitment to protecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples, and human rights principles. It is unfortunate to see such senior officials not speak about the fate of Indigenous Peoples despite the Ombudsman’s advice asking the government to stop eviction of the Ogiek from their ancestral land. The same was asked of the government by the national human rights institution, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, on 6 November 2023

The Cabinet Secretary Environment Speaking on National Tree Planting. The relevant part is from 18:43 to 21:43. Video: Citizen TV Kenya.

In the morning of 2 November local time, several community members reported forced evictions and the destruction and burning down of their homes, as shown in the photos below shared by OPDP via X (formerly Twitter).

The ICCA Consortium is highly concerned about the intergenerational trauma and psychosocial impacts, human rights violations, humanitarian crisis and suffering of the Ogiek peoples arising from the evictions and condemns the evictions regardless of the purported rationale. The government of Kenya has binding commitments to respect and fulfill the rights of all Kenyans, including Indigenous Peoples. These include the rights to their lands, to the access and use of their clean environment, water, and other natural resources available to them as a forest Indigenous Peoples. These rights are not just demanded by the Ogiek but are recognized under the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and several regional and international laws to which Kenya is party. Furthermore, the government of Kenya has specifically been ordered by the African Court to remedy the numerous human rights violations that it has already meted out on the Ogiek, and not to repeat those violations.

If the evictions are indeed linked to protection of the Mau water tower, we strongly condemn the continued use of the fortress conservation paradigm and the militarization and weaponization of conservation against the Ogiek. Other Indigenous Peoples in Kenya, including the Sengwer, face similar threats and violations in the name of conservation. Evidence from around the world has shown that lands governed and managed by communities through their Indigenous ways of life have better conservation outcomes than lands managed through other conservation models, including state protected areas.

We stand in solidarity with the Ogiek and urge the government of Kenya to respect and fully respond to the demands of the community as follows:

  • Stop with immediate effect the evictions of the Ogiek living in Sasimwani and Nkareta and allow them to live and conserve their own ancestral land in peace.
  • Fully respect the African Court judgments and restitute the land of the Ogiek to ensure their dignity as a people.
  • Honor and respect the commitment to protect human rights for all and especially those of minority and marginalized communities like the Ogiek, and to appropriately recognize and support conservation by Indigenous Peoples and local communities under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.
  • Work together with the Ogiek and other Indigenous Peoples in Kenya to realize the country’s conservation goals, rather than excluding them – especially physically – from their territories through evictions, militarization and other harmful tactics.
  • Open doors for the Ogiek elders seeking intervention from different government offices and commissions, and listen to, respect and support their self-determined priorities and ways of sustaining and conserving their land – where they have lived far longer than any other authority.

Take action

We encourage everyone and especially the citizens of Kenya to stand in solidarity with the Ogiek by signing this petition on and by sharing messages on social media with the hashtag #IStandwiththeOgiek and by tagging the Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program.

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