Minority Rights Group International (MRG) Deputy Director, Claire Thomas, writes this opinion piece for the Thomson Reuters News Foundation.+ LEARN MORE
Tell President Kenyatta of Kenya to stop illegal handouts of Ogiek lands
This Human Rights Day, Minority Rights Group International (MRG) urges you to support a critical campaign asking the international community to show solidarity with the Ogiek of Kenya of the Mau Forest, by calling on President Uhuru Kenyatta to stop giving away land belonging to the indigenous Ogiek community. The hashtags accompanying the campaign are #IStandWithTheOgiek and #AllEyesOnKenyatta.
The Ogiek are the indigenous and present owners of Kenya’s Mau Forest, which is their ancestral homeland. In May 2017, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights recognised their right to the land and declared their evictions at the hands of the government illegal. The Court held that the Ogiek have a right to own, use and occupy their ancestral lands and that conservation could not be used to justify curtailing these rights. The Court also concluded that the Ogiek could not be blamed for the degradation of the Mau Forest Complex.
But the government continues to flout the judgment, evicting Ogiek communities from the Forest and delaying the return of their land. Its handling of the process has been neither transparent, nor honest, and it has repeatedly failed to meaningfully consult with the Ogiek community in fulfilling its obligations. This approach, which continues to stubbornly ignore Ogiek voices, is unacceptable and undermines the Ogiek peoples’ human rights.
UPDATE: A court ordered the government to stop its titling process
A great news for the Ogiek – but there is still a long road ahead.
(Re-)watch our live discussion held on December 12 with John Sironga, a member of the Ogiek council of Elders:
Why we’re launching this campaign
On 11 December 2020, the day after Human Rights Day, the government intends to give plots of land (5 acres each in size) to Ogiek and non-Ogiek alike in what seems to echo the colonial approach of forced assimilation in order to make the ‘Ogiek problem’ disappear.
Kenya claims in handing out private titles it is obeying the judgment rendered by the African Court.
This is a blatant lie.
The Ogiek own the entire Mau Forest and oppose parcelling plots of land to individual households, which would destroy the forest. In line with the Judgment they seek communal title deeds for the Mau Forest, to return to their homeland, stop deforestation and resume their role as environmental guardians.
If President Kenyatta moves forward with his plans tomorrow, he will formalise illegal settlement on Ogiek land, dishonestly claiming implementation of the African Court Judgment. This defeats the Ogiek’s human rights, undermines the court, and could prove fatal for the environment. Join our campaign and tell President Kenyatta that the world is watching. We will not stay silent while the Ogiek people’s human rights continue to be violated.
What you can do
- Engage with the campaign on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the hashtags #IStandWithTheOgiek and #AllEyesOnKenyatta. A social media pack with material is available for you to use here.
- Listen to Ogiek voices – (Re-)watch our Facebook live event where you can hear voices from the Ogiek community explain their situation and why they are asking for global solidarity.
- Sign up to our newsletter via the form below to ensure you stay updated on developments. You can sign up to our regular newsletter with general updates from MRG here.
- Donate to the Ogiek Peoples Development Program (OPDP) – OPDP is a non-profit community led organisation spearheading the legal battle on behalf of the community. Show your solidarity by donating in support of their continued work.