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African Commission urged to toughen stance on state non-compliance

24 January 2005

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) has raised its concerns at the 36th Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, regarding the poor situation of state compliance with its recommendations and urgent action directives. The rights group congratulated the Commission’s vision and foresight in a number of extremely progressive decisions in favour of some of Africa’s most vulnerable communities. However it criticized states including Nigeria and Kenya for failing to implement such decisions and recommendations, in clear contravention of their obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

During the session held in Dakar, Senegal, MRG drew attention to the Endorois Community in Kenya, which was granted ‘provisional measures’ by the Commission under Rule 111(3) in 2004 in the course of its 35th Session. The purpose of the Commission’s decision was to prevent irreparable damage being caused to the Endorois community’s traditional lands around the Lake Bogoria region, through government sanctioned mining operations. The Endorois have brought their case to the attention of the Commission, supported by MRG, the outcome of which remains pending. On 1 June 2004, in its provisional measures communication, the Commission urged the Government of Kenya to take immediate steps to ensure that no further issuance of mining concessions or transfers of parts to the land occurred prior to the case being concluded.

In early November 2004, the District Commissioner of the Lake Bogoria area summoned the community in order to seek their approval to go forth with mining activities. Despite the community’s unanimous rejection of the proposal, two days after the meeting mining equipment arrived at a location bordering Lake Bogoria. The Endorois gathered to block the road and police forces were sent to the scene where some community members were detained. The Chairperson of the Endorois Welfare Council subsequently received a letter requiring his resignation as head teacher of a state school. These events constitute a violation of the provisional measures communicated by the Commission to His Excellency Mwai Kibaki, President of the Republic of Kenya. MRG further drew to the attention of the Commission its concerns over intimidation of community members and leaders.

MRG also raised serious concern over the continuing failure of the Nigerian government to implement the Commission’s landmark decision on the Ogoni of the Niger Delta. The Commission issued a decision in October 2001 regarding Communication 155/96 alleging violations of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights by Nigeria against the Ogoni. The Commission found that oil production activities by the government and Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) had caused serious health and environmental damage, and that there had been inadequate compensation and consultation with the Ogoni. Recommendations to the government were made, including the need to undertake environmental and social impact assessments, and to compensate the victims of human rights violations linked to the oil operations.

According to MRG, the Commission’s highly regarded decision following the Ogoni communication, has served as an important benchmark case for minority and indigenous communities striving to safeguard their environment and natural resources. However, in Nigeria direct implementation and compensation in accordance with the ACHPR findings has yet to materialize, leading to frustration and continued suffering amongst the community.

MRG stated that numerous other governments, which have been found in violation of African Charter rights have also failed to successfully implement ACHPR decisions. In view of this failure, during its recent session MRG urged the Commission to engage with all concerned states on this matter, with the aim of securing the implementation of its decisions and the rights of Africa’s minority and indigenous peoples. MRG highlighted the mandate of the Commission’s Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Populations and Communities, who is due to visit Kenya in early 2005, as a useful mechanism for monitoring and promoting implementation of ACHPR decisions.

Notes for editors

For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact the MRG Press Office on [email protected].