Minority Rights Group International (MRG) condemns the recent attack on two activists from the Ogiek community in Ngongogeri, Rift Valley Province in Kenya, and calls on the police and judicial authorities to conduct a full and impartial investigation into the incident.
James Rana, 38, an Ogiek land rights activist, was brutally attacked by assailants on Sunday night at his home in Ngongogeri. According to the Ogiek People's Development Programme (OPDP), a local NGO working to secure the rights of the community, six people broke into Mr. Rana's home around 2:30am and attacked him with machetes, knives and other tools, causing serious injuries to his head, hands and legs. He was rushed to Nakuru General Hospital, a local hospital where he received treatment, and is now recovering at home.
OPDP said a similar attack occurred earlier last week, where a group of people attacked and abused Rosaline Kuresoi, 34, a local land and minority women rights activist, on her way home from Njoro market.
Both Rana and Kuresoi are protesting attempts by land speculators to forcibly take over Ogiek land in Ngongogeri. They accuse local government officials of siding with the speculators.
"The specific targeting of minority rights activists in this way is extremely troubling, especially given their marginalised and vulnerable position in Kenyan society," says Lucy Claridge, MRG's Head of Law.
Daniel Kobei, the OPDP Executive Director, expressed "shock that police have recorded statements in both cases but up to now no arrests have been made."
"These targeted attacks are aimed at keeping Ogiek activists silent from protesting land grabbing. We shall not retaliate with violence but will never tire from pressing for what rightfully belongs to us, no matter the coercion they level at us," Daniel Said.
The Mau Complex, one of the main water catchment areas in Kenya and home to an estimated 15,000 Ogiek families, is often punctuated by inter-ethnic clashes between the Ogiek, who are the indigenous owners of the land, and neighbouring majority communities.
In 2009, Ogiek families were almost evicted by the government from the Mau Complex without due consultation under the guise of protecting the environment. The Ogiek maintain that the forest is most at risk from large-scale logging rather than their own sustainable and traditional practices.
"For many years, the Ogiek have suffered displacement or been threatened with eviction from their ancestral lands, and action is urgently needed to protect their livelihoods and indeed their survival as an indigenous community. Any attempt to hamper such activism should be seriously condemned," Claridge added.
Notes to the Editor
- Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is a non governmental organisation working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide
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MRG Press Office in Africa – Mohamed Matovu
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Download photos of the attack from MRG's Minority Voices Newsroom