Kenyan communities report illegal evictions during Covid-19 – CLAN press release
Government agency uses forest conservation as an excuse for violating rights guaranteed under a ground-breaking court ruling
As cold weather prevails mid-year in Kenya and temperatures plummet in the highlands where traditional forest peoples live, Covid-19 is surging across the country. But rather than being able to shelter safely in their homes, Indigenous and forest-dwelling communities are being evicted from their ancestral lands, and their homes and farms destroyed by their own government.
Community Land Action Now (CLAN) has chosen to speak out. CLAN is a network of community leaders and community-based organisations. Its members are pastoral, settled and forest communities.
In the Mau Forest, the Kenya Forest Services (KFS) has demolished over 300 Ogiek homes, and fences, farms and livestock have been destroyed. Children and other vulnerable community members have been left homeless during the pandemic.
In Embobut Forest in the Cherangany Hills, the KFS has burned 28 homes belonging to extremely poor Sengwer, including their blankets, utensils and other essential belongings.
In both cases, the government is arguing that the evictions are necessary in order to conserve the Embobut Forest and the Mau Forest, extensive closed-canopy forests in Kenya and important watersheds. The government has repeatedly claimed that preserving this ecosystem takes priority over the land claims of the Ogiek, Sengwer and others. Yet, a growing body of evidence shows that honouring land rights is the foundation for conserving forests sustainably, including those of national and watershed importance. This is the path which so many modern governments now take and global conservation organisations agree.
Read the full statement, with 153 signatories, here.