September 26, 2018.- 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.
An estimated 45,000 Ogiek people live spread across the Mau Forest practicing hunter-gathering practices and a small scale agro-pastoral economy. However, during the last decade, the Ogiek peoples have had to defend their rights to their ancestral land and have several times been evicted and seen their homes burned down by the authorities. These tragic events happened despite that the Kenyan Constitution of 2010 states that Community land shall vest in and be held by communities identified based on ethnicity, culture or similar community of interest.
As a mean of defense, the Ogiek peoples, therefore, sought help by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in 2009 that transferred the case to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and a verdict in favour of the Ogiek Peoples’ rights was made last year.
A historic court ruling in favour of the Ogiek peoples’ rights
The 26th of May 2017, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights made a landmark judgment in the case involving the Ogiek peoples. The African Court found that the Kenyan Government had violated seven separate articles of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, with the violations amounting to a persistent denial of Ogiek land rights and their religious, cultural and hunter-gather practices.
The case in brief:
- In 2009, mass evictions of Ogiek peoples from the Mau Forest were made by Kenya Forest Service. As a response, the Ogiek peoples lodged a case with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) arguing that their political, social and economic survival was threatened.
- In 2012, the ACHPR referred the Ogiek case to the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights ('ACtHPR'), on the basis that it demonstrated serious and mass human rights violations.
- In March 2016, mass evictions of around 100 Ogiek families were made and 300 Ogiek homes were destroyed
- 26th of May 2017, The African Court finds that the Kenyan Government has violated seven separate articles of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.
- November 2017, a Task Force is set up by the government of Kenya with the mandate to study the ruling, provide recommendations to redress Ogiek claim and prepare an interim and final report. However, the Ogiek peoples have not been included in this Task Force.
The African Court recognised that Ogiek peoples are indigenous peoples entitled to the protection of their accompanying rights under the African Charter and international law. Furthermore, it declared that the preservation of the Mau Forest could not justify the evictions of the Ogiek peoples from their ancestral homes, and it found that the Ogiek peoples’ rights to property, non-discrimination, culture, religion, development and natural resources have been violated.
The project will ensure Ogiek peoples participation in the implementation
However, the Ogiek peoples have not been consulted nor included in the membership of the Task Force that after the ruling was made by the Kenyan Government to address these issues and, so far, the Task Force has not done much – and they have carried out no major consultations as per their mandate.
The aim of the IWGIA funded project therefore is to ensure that approximately 30.000 Ogiek members (with a special focus on Ogiek leaders, women and youths) are made aware of the African Court decision and its implications through a number of activities and meetings. Furthermore, the project aims to build their capacity and engage them effectively with both the county and national governments and to engage the government Task Force for the implementation of the African Court Decision.
The project will be implemented by IWGIA’s long-term partner, the Ogiek Peoples Development Programme (OPDP), and its Director, Daniel Kobei (photo beneath), is happy for the support aimed at having the African Court ruling implemented;
It is crucial for the Ogiek peoples to get our ancestral land back and this project is an important step to make sure that the African Court ruling is implemented, and our rights are recognised.
Part of a long-term commitment
The new project will last until the end of 2019, but it is part of a long-term cooperation between IWGIA and OPDP that is supported by Danida. The overall objective of the cooperation is to secure the Ogiek peoples land tenure rights, and IWGIA has therefore been part of the process from the very beginning supporting the Ogiek peoples’ in their claim, documenting the violations of their rights in the Mau Forest and facilitating their participation at relevant institutions.
Read more about our work with securing indigenous peoples’ land rights here