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Kenya: Eviction, flooding and disability in Baringo County

20 June 2023

Lake Bogoria is located in Baringo County, in the Great Rift Valley region in Kenya. It is a salt alkaline lake, which makes it an essential breeding ground for lesser flamingos. Fringed by pastures for cattle, the lake and its surroundings constitute the ancestral lands of the indigenous Endorois people. This case study explores the community’s land rights battle to retain access to the lake and the impacts that persistent flooding is having, particularly on indigenous women and people with disabilities.  

Lake Bogoria is an area of spiritual importance to the Endorois community, an agro-pastoralist community of around 60,000 – 70,000 people living in Baringo County. Christine Kandie, Director of the Endorois Indigenous Women’s Empowerment Network (EIWEN), explains how the Endorois have been historically connected to this lake and its waters through community rituals. To Endorois people, Lake Bogoria is a prayer site, and an area of great economic value given the fertile grazing fields and the abundance of trees for timber construction and firewood.


In 1974, the Endorois community were evicted from their ancestral lands by the Kenyan government. Affected families received KES 3, compensation of less than US$ 1 in today’s currency. However, only a few families received this amount and many years after they had been promised it. Kandie explains, ‘After some time, our elder brothers and sisters who had activism and human rights in their hearts felt that whatever the government did to us was not fair’. These evictions, like others across the region, were part of nature conservation efforts to develop tourism through the creation of the Lake Bogoria Game Reserve.  

Endorois activists began to challenge the government-led evictions by seeking justice in local courts, while facing harassment and arrests for public assembly along the way. By 2003, all national remedies had been exhausted and the community took the issue to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, represented by the Endorois Welfare Council, and assisted by Minority Rights Group, WITNESS and the Centre for Minority Rights Development. Kandie adds:

‘We were accorded our rights by the Commission because they saw that our rights were truly violated. We were denied access to our own lands and waters. We were not identified as Endorois. We were not allowed to register as an organization on behalf of the community so that we could self-identify and achieve self-determination. We were not allowed to strengthen our collective identity together, despite the fact that we were being displaced.’


In the last decade, the waters of Lake Bogoria have been rising, along with six other water bodies in the Great Rift Valley region, swallowing 60 square kilometres of land traditionally inhabited by the indigenous Endorois and displacing countless numbers of people. Climate change is one of the issues contributing to the rising water levels. Environmental issues affecting Lake Bogoria are directly linked to deforestation for charcoal burning, exacerbated by high unemployment rates in the area. The impacts of these issues are felt keenly by the community, particularly as the Endorois are still dealing with the unresolved land rights case. Kandie adds:

‘When we received the decision in 2010, a new scenario started coming up slowly; the issue of climate change. We experience rainfall that we believe has been moderate, like the way it has been the previous years, but because of the bareness of the land, there is a lot of water running and bring a lot of huge soil deposits into the lake. People are cutting down trees to support their livelihoods.’

In addition to the displacement of the population inhabiting the lands around the lake, the flooding has caused health facilities to close down. What is more, soil fertility has been affected, and areas for community rituals have disappeared. Some Endorois have been displaced not only once but multiple times throughout their lifetimes, as the lands on which they were resettled post-eviction have been inundated multiple times by the encroaching waters.

‘I realized that thousands of persons with disabilities were not part of the discussions. Most women were just coming to fill the chamber quota, but in a real sense, there was no ownership when it came to issues of the community.’


Kandie talks about Tartok, an Endorois woman with a disability whose story provides an example of the difficulties faced by those who are most vulnerable within the community. Tartok was newly married when the evictions took place and lost her sight a few years later. Having been resettled on government land that is inaccessible and underdeveloped, she is unable to provide for her family. One time she tried collecting food near her home but was bitten by a snake. Without a personal assistant, and with no means of paying for the travel that is required to get the documentation to register as disabled, she is left without access to the national social security fund for people with disabilities and must also deal with stigma. Kandie explains:

‘We have the issue of stereotyping within the community, that a person with disabilities is not productive. When you are not productive, you are being rejected, so it becomes very difficult to be integrated even at the family level.’

It was through her work at the community level on the land rights case that Kandie first noticed some of the key issues facing Endorois women and people with disabilities. She details:

‘The moment I go to the community and the moment I view the women, after elaborating on issues of implementation of the human rights case they would come back to me asking specific, unique things. Maybe the case was not speaking to them, you know? And I realized that there is a huge gap, despite the fact that all of us are from a marginalized indigenous community.’

Although the community was engaging in collective action to challenge the government to regain access to their ancestral lands and tackle other issues, not everyone was included or had their interests represented in this effort. According to Kandie:

‘I realized that thousands of persons with disabilities were not part of the discussions. Most women were just coming to fill the chamber quota, but in a real sense, there was no ownership when it came to issues of the community.’


This realization led Christine to set up the Endorois Indigenous Women’s Empowerment Network (EIWEN). EIWEN now works primarily on the rights of women and people with disabilities within the Endorois community, focusing on land rights and economic empowerment but also working on social issues like political representation, gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and female genital mutilation. Kandie adds:

‘You know, our story can strengthen someone else, and, in that process, we build one another. There is the issue of Ubuntu; “I am because we are”. So, there is no way Africa can be improving when other people are left behind. There is no way we can also leave women with disabilities behind and talk about the issue of development. We need to make Ubuntu a reality, and that is how we came to register EIWEN in 2019.’

In addition, EIWEN has started to engage in international advocacy, through the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), trying to highlight the issues of indigenous women with disabilities across all spheres and connecting with other organizations nationally, regionally and globally which are doing similar work. Kandie explains:

‘We want to break those barriers, to be in the lead in terms of making the women grow, speaking about the issues they are facing themselves. It is also very important to have those people on the team, taking the lead in terms of growing our indigenous persons with disabilities movement.’

The work of EIWEN has been well received by the local and national government, which have acknowledged that community dialogues are required to amplify the voices of those who are most vulnerable within marginalized, indigenous communities, and to make their stories visible. Kandie concludes:

‘Some of the government officials sit there at those higher levels, so it’s very hard for them to understand what is happening on the ground. They were acknowledging that EIWEN is really trying to bridge the gap that existed before. It becomes really a good opportunity for all of us to strengthen our government to maybe understand better our specific challenges.’

Photo: Josephine, an Endorois community health volunteer, standing near the submerged Loboi Dispensary in Baringo County, Kenya. Credit: Billy Rwothungeyo/MRG.

This chapter is part of our ‘Minority and Indigenous Trends 2023: Focus on Water’ flagship report. Discover all chapters >


Christine Kandie

Lauren Avery

Disability Intersectional Programme Coordinator

Minority Rights Group