A statement letter has been singed by more than 20 organizations of the civil society and sent to Cabinet Secretary of the Kenyan Ministry of Environment & Forestry
Today, more than 20 organizations of the civil society have sent out a statement letter to Mr. Keriako Tobiko (Cabinet Secretary of the Kenyan Ministry of Environment & Forestry) to stop immediately the ongoing forced evictions of the Ogiek community in Kenya. The aim of the initiative is also to draw the attention of the international public to a situation that is bringing indigenous people to their knees.
On Wednesday, July 8th, 2020, members of the Ogiek community reported that the Kenyan police and the Kenyan Forest Service had started evicting people from the Mau Forest. As of today, the official number of displaced Ogiek families amounts to 100 (approximately 600 people) but numbers could be much bigger. Their houses have been destroyed, leaving them without shelter, vulnerable to Covid-19, and unable to access their ancestral lands, their source of food and livelihood.
The Kenyan Government purports that these evictions are intended to remove Ogiek who are considered to be living outside of the territory that has been allocated to them. However, the Government has never clarified nor communicated where the official border of the community’s territory lies. In addition, evicted Ogiek families have been rendered homeless in the midst of the rainy season with nowhere to shelter from the rain and cold or the Covid-19 pandemic. In some cases, families have been separated. Women and children in particular are being temporarily housed in neighboring communities and schools. With their livelihoods interrupted, the victims of these evictions are now relying on food aid from well-wishers.
WHY EVICTIONS NEED TO STOP IMMEDIATELY
- Evictions are being carried out during the Covid-19 emergency: This undermines the efforts by the Kenyan Government to control the spread of the virus.
- The evictions are carried out without prior notice and with use of excessive force.
- In 2017 the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights held that the Ogiek have a right to remain on their ancestral lands, as the Mau Forest has been their ancestral home, and that its occupation by the Ogiek people is paramount for their survival.
- The evictions will have negative social, economic and cultural consequences which will affect the Ogiek’s livelihood, local biodiversity and food security. The Ogiek culture and the importance of their activity for the protection of their territories has also been recognized internationally (by Slow Food and UN-IFAD).
WHAT CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS DEMAND
The signatories demand the Ministry of Environment & Forestry:
- To immediately stop the evictions of the Ogiek community in the Mau forest;
- To provide shelter, food and sanitary products for the affected families, and act in line with World Health Organization advice on Covid-19 by doing so;
- To start implementing the African Court’s judgment by including indigenous peoples in political processes and establish the official borders of the territories in which the Ogiek have communal property rights in the Mau Forest complex.
- To define a shared and collaborative forest management plan for the protection of the traditional forest together with representatives of the Ogiek community.
WHY THE CURRENT EVICTION OF THE OGIEK FROM THE MAU FOREST IS ILLEGAL
Ogiek land rights have been formally recognized: The Ogiek instituted a constitutional case against the Kenyan Government in June 1997 seeking to have their traditional land-resource tenure system recognized. The case was resolved at the regional level in 2017 when the African Court found that the Kenyan Government had violated the rights of the Ogiek community.
NOT ONLY THE OGIEK
It is not just the Ogiek people who have been victims of illegal evictions. Earlier this week, Amnesty Kenya, together with eight other civil society organizations, urged the Kenyan Forest Service to stop the eviction of the Sengwer community from Embobut forest (July 13th press release).
SIGNATORIES OF THE LETTER
Mariashoni Community Development – MACODEV
Ogiek Peoples Development Program – OPDP
Ogiek Youth Traditional Food Custodians Slow Food Community
Baraka Agricultural College
Biodiversity and Biosafety Association of Kenya (BIBA-K)
Kenya Human Rights Commission
Mandeleo Endelevu Action Program
Network for Eco-farming in Africa – NECOFA
Seed Savers Network
Slow Food Kenya
Forest Peoples Programme
Indigenous Terra Madre network – ITM
International Indigenous Women’s Forum – FIMI
International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs – IWGIA
International Land Coalition – ILC
Minority Rights Group International
Slow Food Youth Network
SONIA for Just New World
The Oakland Institute
Former UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, John H. Knox
For further information please contact:
Giulia Capaldi +39 3428278485 – [email protected]