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Kenyan government must end illegal evictions of Ogiek in Mau Forest 

4 November 2023

Minority Rights Group (MRG) vehemently condemns the Government of Kenya’s renewed eviction campaign against the indigenous Ogiek community of Mau Forest Complex in Kenya. On 2 November 2023, rangers of the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) started forcefully evicting Ogiek from their ancestral lands by violently destroying and burning Ogiek homes and schools in Sasimwani, Narok County. The campaign, which is ongoing, has left over 700* Ogiek community members homeless with nowhere to go. The damage done to Ogiek homes, property and belongings by the KFS and KWS rangers are worth an estimated 50 million KES. 

The government’s actions directly violate two landmark judgements issued by the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights; one in May 2017 that recognized the Ogiek community’s ownership over their ancestral land in the Mau Forest Complex, and another in June 2022 that ordered the Kenyan government to return the land to the Ogiek community. The Court recognized the crucial role the Ogiek play in safeguarding their local ecosystems and its resources, and in conserving biodiversity in their ancestral territories. It clearly stated that the government’s conservation objectives could not be used to justify evicting the Ogiek from their lands.

Yet, the government repeatedly flouts these judgements and continues to cite the need to conserve the Mau Forest to justify its actions. On 21 October 2023, the Chief Conservator of Forests (Kenya Forest Service) said it seeks to reclaim the Mau Forest Complex to protect its key water tower, which is allegedly ‘facing challenges of encroachment and destruction’. Regardless of its alleged concern, the government is choosing to ignore the fact that it is required, as ordered by the African Court, to consult the Ogiek on all matters concerning development, conservation or investment initiatives on their lands.

Joshua Castellino, Co-Executive Director at Minority Rights Group, says:

‘The Kenyan government is yet again demonstrating a flagrant disregard for the rule of law, and it appears to be confident that it can get away with it. The world needs to urgently wake up to this. In Kenya, the Ogiek represent the slim hope for mitigation against the current climate emergency. Yet instead of enabling them to get on with repairing their ancestral ecosystem that has been destroyed by others, the government is choosing to illegally evict them under the guise of conservation. It is a disaster for both Ogiek peoples’ rights and for the environment, and there is no one to blame but the Kenyan government.’

MRG demands that the Government of Kenya:

  • Immediately cease the eviction campaign against the Ogiek community and respect their rightful ownership of their ancestral land in Mau Forest Complex.
  • Facilitate humanitarian support for the community affected by the violent actions of Kenya Forest Service and Kenya Wildlife Service rangers.
  • Ensure that those affected by the current eviction campaign receive adequate compensation for the damages they have suffered.
  • Fully implement the judgements issued by the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in 2017 and 2022. This is long overdue and the government must end its delay tactics.

MRG has stood alongside the Ogiek community throughout their long legal battle and will continue to do so until the African Court judgements are fully implemented. We urge the international community to join us in bringing significant pressure onto the Kenyan government to respect international human rights law, to which it has committed. The Kenyan government’s actions do not only affect Ogiek, but also damage the rights and legitimate aspirations of every indigenous community across Africa. 

Note: This statement was updated on 8 November 2023 to reflect a corrected figure of the number of Ogiek who have been left homeless due to the evictions.

Photo:Property belonging to Ogiek destroyed in a violent eviction campaign by Kenya Forest Service and Kenya Wildlife Service Rangers. Curtesy of Ogiek Peoples Development Programme