African Union Comes Out in Support of Ogiek Land Rights
The Ogiek, the meanwhile world-famous honey-hunters of the Mau forest in Kenya, booked another success in their struggle for survival and the rights to their forest homeland.
The African Court of Human and People’s Rights of the African Union (AU), following the line of arguments presented by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, ordered the Government of the Republic of Kenya to immediately halt any eviction of Ogiek from their ancestral forests, which the Ogiek had protected since times immemorial. It were the Ogiek who preserved the old growth forest of indigenous trees, resisted against the colonial plantations of non-indigenous species and thereby maintained the capacity of the Mau Forest Range as one of the five major water towers of Kenya until today.
In their struggle for recognition, natural forest- and watershed-protection and the rights to their territory ECOTERRA Intl. stood since 1992 besides the Ogiek, one of the five aboriginal peoples of Kenya (see http://www.ogiek.org).
The Ogiek had received their recognition as a people of Kenya only during the recent process leading to the new constitution. The subsequently established Mau Task Force, implemented by the Office of the Prime Minister, had clearly reported not only on the injustices against the Ogiek from the times when the colonial government – imposed by Britain – had robbed and transformed the Ogiek’s forests into governmental estates, but also listed the land grabbing by outsiders – including former state president Daniel arap Moi – and other issues of indigenous peoples’ rights, which had been so far unresolved.
In this context, the Court ruled that the Kenyan Government also should stop any distribution of land in the Mau forest to outsiders, a scourge which especially in pre-election times had become rampant and caused in the months of the post-election violence period of 2007/2008 the death of many peace-loving Ogiek in armed clashes, which did cost the lives of almost 1,500 Kenyans and turned 600,000 Kenyan citizens into so-called Internally Displaced People (IDPs), of which many still have not been settled again.
In the just concluded but already contested presidential and general elections of 2013 the forced influx of non-Ogiek into Ogiek lands and the biased demarcation of constituencies by the heavily criticized so-called Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) led to the now factual situation that the Ogiek, though being an indigenous First Nation of today’s multi-national state of Kenya, still have not even one governmental representative – neither in parliament nor in the newly created Senate.
While all presidential candidates during pre-election times vowed to work hard for the rectification of historical injustices, it remains to be seen if and when the Kenyan governance will follow this landmark ruling by the Human Rights Court of the African Union and implement the measures ordered to be executed within 15 days.
Kenya ordered to stop eviction
Arusha. The African Court of Human and People’s Rights has ordered the Kenyan government to stop the eviction of the Ogiek Community members and other settlers from the Mau Forest on grounds the forest constituted a reserved water catchment area.
In a judgement made on Friday, the Court, which is based here, also ruled that the same government should postpone distribution of land in the contested forest area, pending the decision of the court on the matter.
The order also enjoins the government of Kenya to report on execution of the measures in 15 days. The suit was filed by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
The applicant alleges that the government, through the Kenya Forestry Service, has demanded the Ogiek Community and other settlers of the Mau Forest to move out on grounds that the forest constitutes a reserved water catchment zone and wasn’t “in any event” part and parcel of government land under Section 4 of the Government Land Act.
In that regard, the applicant requests for imposition of provisional measures to stop the government from evicting the Ogiek and other settlers of the Mau Forest following a 30-day eviction notice issued in October 2009 and related statements made by some Kenyan authorities.
The applicant submits that the eviction would have far reaching implications on the political, social and economic survival of the Ogiek, one of the indigenous communities which consider the forest their ancestral land and that the eviction may result in irreparable harm to the victims.
Text: Zephania Ubwani – The Citizen Bureau Chief.
SURVIVAL & FREEDOM for PEOPLE & NATURE