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Kenya at 50: Unrealized rights of minorities and indigenous peoples – Report

8 March 2012

On the 50th anniversary of Kenya’s independence, many minority and indigenous communities feel that despite some constitutional gains, increased ethnicization of politics has deepened their exclusion, making their situation worse today than it was in 2005, a new Minority Rights Group International (MRG) report shows.

The report titled Kenya at 50, reviews the current status of minority and indigenous groups in Kenya, particularly how legal and policy changes over the last five years have responded to the social, economic and political challenges confronting them.

‘Despite the adoption of the new Constitution in 2010, very little has changed in the way the Kenyan state approaches the question of minorities,’ says Marusca Perazzi, MRG’s Governance Programme Coordinator.

‘During this period, forced evictions and other forms of harassment have continued to plague many minority and indigenous communities, in absolute disregard of the new Constitution,’ Perazzi adds.

Many minority and indigenous groups interviewed separately and in groups, feel issues affecting them, such as drought and state-induced landlessness to pave the way for industrialization, are not receiving enough media attention.

The report highlights that charges of trespass in the Rift Valley against pastoralist groups in Samburu and Naivasha, have increased whenever the communities seek access to grazing grounds, even in what are considered community lands.

Daniel Kobei, Executive Director of Ogiek People’s Development Programme (OPDP), a local organization and MRG partner said the laws being considered for adoption by the National Assembly have ‘betrayed a total lack of commitment to ensuring that minorities are a functioning part of the new Kenya, creating fears among minority communities that their recognition may not translate into real positive legislative and administrative developments.’

For many years, the Ogiek have suffered displacement or been threatened with eviction from their ancestral lands, in particular the Mau Forest and around Mount Elgon.

Other pressing examples in report include the Nubians in Kibera, an expansive human settlement known internationally for its poor sanitation and cramped living quarters. The community faces periodic violence pitting them against harsh landlords from majority communities, forced demolitions, evictions and an unclear citizenship status in Kenya.

To further show how minorities suffer unfair disadvantage in law and in practice, the government of Kenya has been reluctant to restore ownership to the Endorois people of their ancestral lands around the Lake Bogoria National Reserve, as recommended by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights two years ago.

The report calls on the Kenyan government to embrace pluralism and take special measures in support of minority and indigenous communities.

Notes to Editors

Interview opportunities are available with:

  • Daniel Kobei, Executive Director, Ogiek Peoples Development Programme (OPDP)
  • Marusca Perazzi, MRG’s Good Governance Programme Coordinator

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is a non-governmental organization working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide.

To arrange interviews, please contact us.