Kenya will in three months know how much it has to pay the Ogiek
community for continuously evicting them from the Mau Forest in the Rift Valley.
On May 26, the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights sitting in Arusha, found the Kenya government guilty of violating the cultural and economic rights of the community by persistently evicting them from their ancestral land.
In a unanimous ruling read by former President of the Court, Augustino Ramadhani, the nine-bench judge agreed to the application by the Ogiek lawyer, Donald Deya, to be given 90 days to file the submissions for reparations.
The judges had earlier directed the lawyer to file submissions for reparations and cost within 60 days from the date of the judgment, but Mr Deya argued that it would take time to collate the expenses since the case was first lodged with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, in Banjul, Gambia, in 2009.
In the judgment, which was signed by eight other judges, the court found that Kenya violated the rights of the Ogiek through continuous evictions contrary to six articles of the court’s Charter, of which Kenya is a signatory.
“The Ogiek population has a distinct way of life centred on and dependent on Mau Forest Complex. As a hunter and gatherer community, they get their means of survival through hunting animals and gathering honey and fruits. They have their own distinctive traditions, clothing practicing rituals, medicine and values which distinguish them from other communities around and inside Mau Complex,” said the judgment.
The judges argue that based on evidence provided before the court, and which was not contradicted by the respondent, the Ogiek people have been peacefully carrying out their cultural practices until their territory was encroached upon by outsiders and they were evicted.
“Even in the face of this, the Ogiek still continue to undertake their cultural activities — traditional weddings ceremonies, folklore and still maintain their clan boundaries in the Mau Forest and each clan ensures the maintenance of the environment within the boundaries it is allocated,” said the judges.
The Kenya government in its defence had submitted that the Ogiek people had evolved on their own by adopting different cultural identities and that the eviction measures were aimed at preventing adverse environmental impact on the Mau Forest caused by the some of the lifestyle and cultural practises of the Ogiek.
However, the judges disagreed and stated that some of the new lifestyles, such as different clothing, have been imposed on the Ogiek after they were uprooted from their natural dwelling.
The judges said the indigenous population all over the world are often affected by activities of other dominant communities and development projects due to their vulnerability stemming from their low numbers or way of life.
Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s regional director for East Africa, said the judgment was a historic victory for the Ogiek community, and gives hope to all indigenous people.
©Alleastafrica and The Eastafrican