When the Community Land Act was adopted in September 2016, it was perceived as a great step forward for securing indigenous communities’ land rights in Kenya. However, three years after its adoption there are still more questions than answers over its implementation. IWGIA is supporting a pilot project in northern Kenya focusing on the implementation of the Act to increase awareness and develop guidelines for the process.
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.
New IWGIA project supports Ogiek communities in Kenya to get access to their ancestral land in the Mau Forest. The project focuses on ensuring the Ogiek peoples’ participation and the implementation of the historic ruling of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in favour of the Ogiek Peoples’ land claims, after nearly a decade of disputes and evictions of the Ogiek peoples from the Mau Forest.
The Ogiek are one of the last remaining forest-dwelling communities and one of the most marginalised indigenous peoples in Kenya. The Ogiek allege violation of their rights to life, property, natural resources, development, religion and culture by the Kenyan government under the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, to which Kenya is a signatory.
In Kenya, the peoples who identify with the indigenous movement are mainly pastoralists and hunter-gatherers as well as some fisher peoples and small farming communities.
This short video shows how the pastoralist communities in Laikipia, Samburu and Isiolo in Kenya came together to raise awareness about the situation of their access to water from the Ewaso Ngiro River that will be gravely affected by a planned mega dam.