• Indigenous peoples in Kenya

    Indigenous peoples in Kenya

    The indigenous peoples in Kenya include hunter-gatherers such as the Ogiek, Sengwer, Yaaku Waata and Sanya, while pastoralists include the Endorois, Turkana, Maasai, Samburu and others.


Indigenous Peoples in Kenya include hunter-gatherers such as Ogiek, Sengwer, Yaaku Waata and Sanya, while pastoralists include Endorois, Turkana, Maasai, Samburu and others.

Kenya does not have specific legislation on Indigenous Peoples and has not yet adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and ratifies Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization. The Indigenous Peoples of Kenya face scarcity and insecurity of land and resources, poor services and discrimination.

However, Kenya has ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Racial (CERD) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

Chapter Four of the Constitution of Kenya contains a progressive Bill of Rights that makes international law a key component of the laws of Kenya and guarantees the protection of minorities and marginalized groups. In accordance with articles 33, 34, 35 and 36, freedom of expression, means of communication and access to information and association are guaranteed. However, the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) is not made in Kenya.

Indigenous Peoples in Kenya

In Kenya, the people who identify with the Indigenous movement are mainly nomadic herders and hunter-gatherers, as well as some fishing villages and small farming communities. It is estimated that pastoralists comprise 25% of the national population, while the largest individual hunter-gatherer community amounts to approximately 79,000.

The pastoralists mainly occupy the arid and semi-arid lands of northern Kenya and towards the border between Kenya and Tanzania in the south.

The hunter-gatherers include the Ogiek, Sengwer, Yiaku, Waata and Aweer (Boni), while the pastoralists include the Turkana, Rendille, Borana, Maasai, Samburu, Ilchamus, Somali, Gabra, Pokot, Endorois and others.

Main challenges for Indigenous Peoples in Kenya

The Indigenous Peoples of Kenya face insecurity in the possession of land and resources, poor service provision, low political representation, discrimination and exclusion. The situation of Indigenous Peoples seems to worsen each year, with increasing competition for resources in their areas.

The practice of forced evictions against Indigenous Peoples such as Sengwer hunter-gatherers in Kenya has been widespread. These evictions have had serious effects and have caused numerous violations of human rights: the right to security of the person, the right to non-interference with privacy, family and home and the right to the peaceful enjoyment of possessions.

The territories of the Indigenous Peoples constitute the only remaining space destined for the extraction of natural resources such as oil, gas, wind and geothermal energy, as well as massive infrastructure projects such as railways, roads and pipelines to comply with the country's development plan. called Vision 2030.

Case: Political participation of Indigenous women

Indigenous women in Kenya face multifaceted social, cultural, economic and political constraints and challenges. First, by belonging to minority and marginalized peoples at the national level; and secondly, through internal social and cultural prejudices.

Prejudices have continued to deny indigenous women equal opportunities to get out of the marasmus of high levels of illiteracy and poverty. It has also prevented them from having a voice to inform and influence political and cultural governance and development policies and processes, due to unequal power relations at both the local and national levels. However, more women have been elected and entered politics in 2017.

Indigenous communities in Kenya still tied up in court proceedings over the Lake Turkana Wind Project

On 22 May 2023, Indigenous Peoples had a victory in the Lake Turkana Wind Project (LTWP) case when Kenyan Environment and Land Court in Meru declined the Review Application filed by the LTWP. Essentially, this means that the land titles in question are cancelled because the time extension requested by LTWP in 2021 was denied with the court maintaining that the LTWP deeds are “irregular and unlawful”. LTWP have now filed yet another Notice to Appeal.

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Kenyan government continues to forcibly evict hundreds of Ogiek

It’s been one week since Kenyan authorities forcibly evicted more than 700 Ogiek children, women and men, including the elderly, from their homes and land in Sasimwani village, Narok County, and they are not stopping.

Beginning on 2 November, Kenya Forest Services and Kenya Wildlife Service rangers demolished and burned dozens of homes rendering families homeless; their personal effects (those that have not been burned) strewn across their traditional land in the Mau Forest.

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Ogiek facing imminent eviction despite African Court’s judgment

Local authorities have informed the Ogiek community residing in the Maasai Mau Forest in southwestern Kenya that eviction orders have been processed for those in the Sasinwani and Nkareta regions, the Ogiek Peoples’ Development Programme (OPDP) reported on 26 October.

The orders have come with no preparation and no plans for relocation, restitution or reparations, leaving at least 500 Ogiek without a home.

The area chief claims he is acting on orders from his superiors and that there is no turning back.

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700 Ogiek made homeless as Kenyan authorities destroy dozens of homes

IWGIA has just received news that authorities from Kenya Forest Services and Kenya Wildlife Service rangers are currently destroying and setting fire to dozens of homes in Sasimwani village, Narok County. 700 Ogiek women, children and men have now been forcibly evicted and made homeless.

“We have nowhere else to go. This marks the end for us. Where will we put the children?” an Ogiek said standing amidst the ruins of her home.

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Ogiek celebrate 6th anniversary of ACHPR ruling

Hundreds of Ogiek celebrated the 6th anniversary of winning a ground-breaking court case at the African Court for Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) which ruled in favour of the Ogiek, who were acknowledged as Indigenous and won both compensation from the government of Kenya and the right to stay in the Mau Forest. 

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IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting and defending Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Read more.

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