Monthly Archives: March 2014


When Kenya promulgated the new constitution in 2010, there was optimism of breaking with the disorder and impunity of the past and joining the community of law abiding nations. But based on recent developments it is cause for worry when those charged with the responsibility of defending the constitution and the people of Kenya tend to flout this oath that binds them with the citizenry and the supreme law.
The case of the Sengwer is one such incident. This is a minority community with a population of a paltry 33,187 according to the 2009 national census. The Sengwer have inhabited the Cherangany hills for centuries and the nature of their livelihood systems is such that their daily existence is fundamentally linked to land and natural resource use which are managed through intricate traditional decision making mechanisms.
Natural resources provide them with livelihoods, primary and supplementary sources of food, animal feed, medicine and shelter. And it is also upon land and natural resources that this community’s cultural and religious ceremonies and other practices thrive.
According to information available online, when plans were mooted to move the Sengwer from the Cherangany Hills, the community moved to court and in March 2013 the High Court in Eldoret issued interim orders forbidding the Kenya Forest Service and the police from carrying out the evictions. This injunction was renewed in November 2013. On 18 January 2014, the Eldoret High Court issued further orders requiring that the police arrest anyone breaching the high court orders.
According to the community, the police providing support to the Kenya Forest Service officers proceeded to ostensibly evict the community and burn their residences to the ground in clear breach of not only the court injunction but also Article 56 (a) of the Constitution read together with Article 10(2) (b) that underscore the principles of human dignity, social justice, human rights, non-discrimination and protection of the marginalized in all aspects.
According to the United Kingdom based Forest Peoples Programme, these evictions are motivated by a World Bank funding to the Government of Kenya’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) Program through the banks’ $68.5 million dollar Natural Resources Management Program, in the Cherangany Hills. REDD is a carbon offset mechanism that uses forests and land as sponges for developed country’s pollution.
According to the World Bank website, its policy on indigenous peoples aims to promote their development in a manner which ensures that the development process fosters full respect for the dignity, human rights, and uniqueness of indigenous peoples.
Globally, Indigenous Peoples are increasingly getting concerned about REDD since their experiences in the past have shown tendencies by governments and private companies to refuse to recognize their rights and interests in forest projects and programs. Indigenous peoples global discourse is rife with concerns that due to the huge amounts of money from the developed countries to the developing countries such as Kenya, there is expected increase in government sanctioned encroachment on indigenous peoples’ forests to cash in on the REDD largesse.
The Sengwer are basing their legal quest on Article 63 (d) of the Kenyan Constitution that recognizes the rights of communities to own ancestral lands traditionally occupied by hunter-gatherers. Additionally, National Land Commission whose mandate among others include conducting research related to land and the use of natural resources, and making recommendations to appropriate authorities appear glaringly lacking in the Embobut forest issue.
On 13 January 2014, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples Professor James Anaya expressed concerns about the impending eviction of the Sengwer indigenous people from their homes in the Embobut Forest in the Cherangani hills and urged the government to ensure that the human rights of the Sengwer are fully respected, in strict compliance with international standards protecting the rights of indigenous peoples.
A foundational constitutional argument in support of the principle of consultative and inclusive approaches is that the more participatory a process, the more likely decisions will balance the range of economic, environmental and social considerations involved in a project and thereby lead to more socially and politically viable development of natural resources.
Indeed Article 10 read together with article 69(d) of the Constitution underscore the same principle by highlighting the importance of the participation of people, protection of marginalized lands and sustainable development as well as co-management of the environment.
In the 2009 ruling by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) regarding the Endorois Case on their rights to Lake Bogoria and access to resources therein through communication 276/2003 to the government of Kenya, the ACHPR recommended a raft of measures to safeguard the rights and fundamental entitlements of the Endorois community in the spirit of Chapter five of the constitution with specific emphasis on article 63 that vests community land on communities identified on the basis of ethnic and cultural identity as well interest. This decision is yet to be implemented 4 years down the line and numerous communiqué’s by ACHPR have been sent to the government the latest being on 5 November 2013.
In Kenya’s last mid-term report under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2011 one of the recommendations from Bolivia was that Kenya ensures that public policies for combating poverty are in accordance with the rights recognized in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and that they are not negatively affected by commitments that might be undertaken in the context of trade and investment agreements.
It is therefore imperative that the government and its operatives as well as other regional and international actors recognize and respect the provisions of the Kenyan constitution in addition to other commitments by Kenya under international law as part of integrating the country within the community of nations where the rule of law and the rights of minorities are safeguarded and respected or else Kenya shall be viewed as a pariah state that is only preoccupied with the welfare of the politically powerful and the affluent.

Santeto Ole Tiampati

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Posted by on March 18, 2014 in News briefs



Pastoralists Must Resolve Conflicts

Decades long pastoralist conflicts and insecurity have had a devastating impact on the people, economy, development and environment. Pastoralist areas remain the least developed parts of Kenya.
This is demonstrated by the glaring economic disparity compared with the rest of the country despite the fact that these areas host the country’s national livestock herd estimated to be worth 295.270 billion shillings according to a 2012 IGAD Livestock Policy Initiative study.
Combined with annual production of 552, 569, 224 litres of camel milk, 1,292, 844,288 litres of goat and sheep milk, 197 637,102,539 litres of cattle milk from semi-arid areas and 370,599,886 litres from arid areas in addition other products such as beef, mutton, hides, skins, butter, ghee, accessories (from hooves, bones and horns), leather wear, draught power, manure (estimated at 27.829 billion shillings) and employment at various stages, pastoralist economy contributes substantially to the national GDP which is the greater chunk of the 40% total livestock contribution.
However, despite the latent opportunities provided by livestock herds and the fact that these areas contribute immensely to the wildlife based tourism, mining and energy sectors, the persistent conflicts portray these lands as the theatre of slaughter, dispossessions and internal displacements which portend a major challenge to pastoralist county governors.
Pastoralist conflicts and insecurity is further compounded by the porous nature of Kenya’s international borders and subsequent proliferation of an estimated 600,000 light weapons and small arms according to a Small Arms Survey Special Report of June 2012. The presence of Al Shabaab Terror group in Somalia, the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda and the Oromo Liberation Front in Ethiopia further complicates the situation.
This insecurity interrupts education, economic preoccupation and generally poses an obstacle for development. Beyond the physical effects, insecurity has negatively affected the inter-communal relations fuelling negative feelings and distrust towards neighbouring communities. This distrust decreases the motivation and the capability of the communities to choose a cooperative path which is a prerequisite for peaceful and effective resources sharing and reciprocity which should be addressed in a unified approach by the 14 pastoralist county governors.
Loss of human life, property, displacements of large segments of the communities, disruption of socio-economic activities and livelihoods, increased hatred between communities, environmental degradation and threat to water catchments areas, increased economic hardships as a result of loss of livelihoods, high levels of starvation and malnutrition among the displaced groups and unprecedented dependency syndrome on relief food are the main negative impacts of the increasing and severe inter-ethnic armed conflicts in Kenya’s pastoralist areas which requires concerted bilateral efforts by the national government, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda and Somali as well as affected county governors and senators.
Pastoralist county governments therefore have the herculean task of building synergies first as a team from affected counties consolidate their efforts to prevent and mitigate violent conflicts by addressing each of the factors contributing to conflicts and insecurity and develop collective and effective actions to tackle the existing and emergent causes of conflict that target the actors who are mainly the youth.
By engaging directly with the pastoralist youth among the Turkana, Samburu, Pokot, Rendille, Gabbra, Borana, Somali among other communities involved and creating opportunities for other preoccupations through the Youth Enterprise Fund and Women Development Fund as well as other grants available both at the County and National levels, pastoralist governors can effectively undertake conflict prevention through the use of conflict prevention capacities of the communities involved and appeal for strengthened synergies between communities in order to take advantage of the benefits of peace which among others include development projects such as the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia transport corridor (LAPSSET) and tourism, mining, oil, gas, geothermal, wind and solar energy that are mainly targeting pastoralist counties.

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Posted by on March 7, 2014 in News Briefs


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Pastoralist Elders Sign Fresh Peace Deal:

Pokot and Turkana elders have signed a fresh peace deal to end the frequent conflicts between their communities. Thirty elders endorsed the peace declaration at Race Course Inn in Eldoret town yesterday. The event was witnessed by government and Kenya Red Cross Society officials. The elders set new rules and practices, during two days of deliberations, aimed at ending the skirmishes.
They agreed to disarmament, which might see the surrender of more than 50,000 illegal firearms. The elders said they will mobilize warriors who participate in cattle rustling raids to give up their arms and engage in development activities.
The elders also agreed that women should be involved in decision making “because they play a key role in peace building”. “We will now look into ways of engaging all communities, chiefs and other leaders in the peace building process,” Pokot paramount chief John Muok said.
He said the peace declaration encourages intermarriage between the Pokot and Turkana as a way to cement relations. West Pokot county commissioner Peter Okwanyo said the government will support the elders as they traverse the two counties preaching peace and reconciliation. “As government we are ready to work with the elders so that they can help us to mobilize the communities to participate in peace building and other development programmes,” Okwanyo said.
Turkana elder Benjamin Ebenyo said are committed to the peace initiatives. Okwanyo said the government, working with the county administration, will implement key development projects in the two regions. “We will formulate legislation that will boost trade and open new markets in several areas,” said Ebenyo. The markets will be opened at Orwa, Kainuk, Turkwel, Lokichar and Kapedo and elsewhere.
KRCS regional officer John Lokala said there is hope for peace in the region. “It’s important to have such a deal signed between elders because it will greatly boost plans for achieving long lasting peace in the two counties,” said Lokala.

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Posted by on March 7, 2014 in latest news