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.
The rains have started and these 700+ people have had to endure living without any shelter; the rain also damaging whatever personal belongings they were able to spare.
IWGIA’s partner organisation – the Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program (OPDP) – was able to help some families by providing polythene tarpaulins as temporary shelter from the rain. However, adding insult to injury, they have reported that authorities and rangers in their continuing destruction are also burning those tarpaulins leaving people completely exposed to the cold and rain.
IWGIA strongly condemns the actions of the Government of Kenya in both the evictions and the willingness to ignore their legal obligations to recognise the Ogiek and their lands. We call on authorities to stop the evictions immediately and provide humanitarian assistance to those affected, including the rebuilding of their homes.
African Commission and Kenya’s Office of the Ombudsman and National Human Rights Commission respond
On 6 November the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights issued an urgent letter of appeal to the Government of Kenya calling for an end to the evictions “in order to limit the irreparable damage that may be caused to the lives, bodily integrity, sources of livelihoods, family life, safety and security” of those affected, especially those most vulnerable.
The actions of the Government of Kenya directly violate two pioneering legal judgments by the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The first judgment, dating back to 2017, recognizes the Ogiek ownership of their ancestral land in the Mau Forest. The second judgment, from 2022, further requires the government to return the land to them. At that time the Court unanimously dismissed all the objections from the Government of Kenya to the 2017 ruling.
Thus, this current illegal eviction contravenes the government’s legal obligations to the African Court’s rulings.
“The Commission would like to advise that the evictions undertaken by multi-agency security teams should be in compliance with the constitution and the relevant legislation put in place,” Honorable Florence Kajuju, Chairperson of Kenya’s Commission on Administrative Justice (CAJ), also known as the Office of the Ombudsman, said. “It is worth noting that the orders [by the African Court] include a stoppage of the future evictions of the Ogiek Community from their ancestral land.”
The Kenya National Human Rights Commission has also weighed in on the situation, calling it "an unprecedented trend occasioned mostly by the State, occasioning gross human rights violations".
The Commission went on to say in its press statement "that despite clear procedural safeguards under Section 152G of the Land Act, 2012 - evictions continue to occur under unclear circumstances, without due process, and with the absence of appropriate measures to mitigate the suffering among the affected persons".
Photo courtesy of the Ogiek Peoples’ Development Programme