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Hundreds of Maasai Families Under Threat of Eviction as Geothermal Companies Invade Their Land

Reminiscent of what happened to the Maasai community in Narasha in 2013, Maasai pastoralists in Kedong, Akira and Suswa are glaring at massive evictions arising from a group of concessions awarded to several companies including Hyundai, Toshiba, Sinopec and African Geothermal International (AGIL) for the purposes of developing geothermal projects on the Maasai lands.

According to the local communities–who claim ancestry to the land and have filed cases in Kenyan courts– African Geothermal International (AGIL) and Marine Power along with Akira I and Akira II have disregarded court injunctions instituted by the Maasai, proceeding to deploy their heavy machinery to their proposed project sites without due diligence or consultations with the local communities. The concession areas, which cover hundreds of thousands of acres, are home to thousands of Maasai pastoralists.

The communities feel that their rights have been grossly violated because each of the companies have failed to adhere to Bio-cultural Community Protocols that require all external actors to respect Indigenous Peoples’ customary laws, values and decision making processes; particularly those concerning stewardship of their territories and lands.

The companies have also disregarded a current dispute between Kedong Ranch Ltd and the Maasai community along with key provisions from the constitution of Kenya (2010). Article 40 of the constitution provides for the protection of the right to property (of any kind) without discrimination and just, prompt and full compensation where acquisition is of national interest. The right to a clean and healthy environment is equally guaranteed under Article 42 in addition to the right to a cultural heritage.

While the Maasai are not against infrastructure development for the country, they are equally distressed over the companies’ similar dismissal of the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). By forcefully evicting the Maasai from their land while denying them the opportunity to participate in and benefit from the development projects, the companies are also in contravention of the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing.

On top of these concerns, the Maasai decry the use of armed police to enforce the evictions, the destruction of their property, and the outright dispossession of their grazing land which is the only source of their livelihoods.

The Maasai demand the following: (a) That the current deployment of armed police to enforce the evictions be stopped forthwith (b) That the companies be held in contempt for disregarding court orders.(c) That a clear and documented plan on access to benefit sharing be put in place to ensure the affected families’ livelihoods are sustained.(d)That other bilateral donors that support the projects being undertaken hold consultative meetings with the Maasai community before any further investments are made.
(e) That the current ESIA reports which excluded livestock, homes and cultural rights should not be used and instead a team that includes Indigenous People be reconstituted to undertake another Environmental and Social Impact Assessment.

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2014 in INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES

 

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Maasai Women Protest Against FGM Ban:

Business was disrupted in a remote village in Kajiado County yesterday after chaos erupted during a demonstration to advocate for female genital mutilation. More than 500 women from the Maasai community protested at Sajilioni shopping centre in Kajiado Central, asking the Government to allow them to continue with the practice.

They matched for 15km from Enkorika to Sajilioni singing pro-FGM songs, saying circumcision of girls is their culture and they are not ready to abandon it. “We cannot afford to abandon our rich culture. The Government should allow us to continue with it,” said Naomi Naserian, 67. Kajiado MP (Rtd) Gen Joseph Nkaissery condemned the protests, saying residents carrying out FGM must prepare to face the law. “These people should be ready to go to jail if found practicing this culture that has been overtaken by events,” he warned. Three journalists, including this writer, were injured and treated at a nearby health centre after demonstrators turned on them, accusing them of being at the forefront of the anti-FGM campaign. NTV cameraman Abdalah Ngotho and Ms Christine Musa of Mediamax were wounded during the melee. Mr. Ngotho’s camera was also damaged.

SOURCE STANDARD NEWSPAPER 5/6/2014

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2014 in latest news

 

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Drought Pushes Turkana Herders To Farming:

Achwa Ikwachiyo, a widow and mother of seven, regarded with a sense of hopelessness the dusk embracing her Lokitaung village in Turkana North Sub-county. Fate and weather had conspired to hand her a tattered life. A devastating drought wiped out all her livestock, leaving her impoverished. Left with nothing, Achwa awaited a miracle. That miracle came through her decision to abandon traditional livestock rearing for farming. “My ambition is to turn my life into success,” says a joyful Achwa, “crop farming has always been my dream. It’s a flourishing and rewarding economic activity in the region compared to livestock, which perish during drought.” Recently, church officials from World Relief-Kenya visited her and she took them to her farm, 5km from her home

At the Lomareng farm in Lokitaung, a group of women were tilling, weeding and planting along seasonal River Kachoda. Achwa and 30 other pastoralist women are showing the way to those still sticking to cattle rearing despite the devastating effects of drought that leave them poorer as the years go by. The women use drip irrigation to water melon, onions, sukuma wiki, tomatoes, maize and cowpeas. “We earn a living from the farm. These crops, especially the sweet water melon, fetch us a good income that gives us our daily bread,” says Achwa. She says cowpea leaves are medicinal – people chew them to sharpen their night vision. “We have never gone to the hospital because of eyesight problems. In fact, we treat most villagers with night blindness when they visit our farm. It is a miracle crop as it heals instantly,” she says.

Chairman of the Lomareng farm David Epuyo says the farm has boosted the locals’ economic livelihoods. “We want to remove the over-dependence on relief food. We can grow our own food and feed the rest of Kenya. All we need now is more water to succeed,” says Epuyo. Epuyo says several pastoralists are willing to farm since the region has potential to produce food through irrigation. Farmers are reaping big from water melons. A kilo of the sweet fruit fetches Sh100 and a farmer can harvest hundreds of kilogram’s at one go. A similar farm in Manalong’oria near Lokitaung town has also been put under drip irrigation. Several pastoralists continue to enroll in the farm following biting drought in the region. Lokitaung senior chief Paul Lobolia says the farmers have benefited from the crop farming techniques that the church has initiated in the region. “We have a chunk of fertile land that can be put under irrigation. If more land is farmed, then our farmers would help achieve food security in the region. We want to end the situation where people die from hunger in the region,” says Lobolia.

World Relief gives the farmers high value seeds, constructs green houses, digs shallow wells and provides technical expertise. Their input has borne fruit. Paul Amodoi from the organization says more than 2,500 households have benefited from the project and it is intending to increase the number of beneficiaries to ensure the region becomes a food-secure zone.

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2014 in News briefs

 

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Cattle Rustling, Scramble For Resources Leave Trail of Death:

Freshly dug graves, deserted cowsheds, lack of barns and undernourished women and children in many homes illustrate the magnitude of the raging Pokot-Turkana conflict. Cattle rustling and clashes over limited resources have left a trail of death and destruction along the volatile border of West Pokot and Turkana counties. The re-drawing of administrative boundaries in the new devolved system of governance coupled with the recent discovery of oil in Turkana have led to violent confrontations over key water and grazing areas. The conflict has displaced thousands of people, prevented agro-pastoral communities from accessing large areas of pasture and water, and hindered the mobility of migratory herders (a crucial drought coping mechanism). Many would expect the region endowed with rich oil deposits to be at peace with itself in anticipation of the multiplier effect the earnings are likely to churn out. Far from it. Turkana is home to Tallow Oil whose explorations are expected to save the region from poverty after decades of neglect.

Regular raids But,
This remains a distant fantasy to residents of Turkana South constituency following regular raids by their neighbours with no end in sight in the foreseeable future. The attacks were hitherto perceived to be traditional cattle rustling escapades but have morphed into boundary disputes and battle for resources with possible political undertones. Residents of Nakwomoru, Kakong’, Kainuk and Kaptir in Turkana South say their Pokot neighbours want to seize their land. “Look at these two graves, I buried my two sons a few days ago after they were killed by armed bandits. My husband died after people who took away his goats also killed him. Now I have no one to depend on. I am only counting days to my grave not knowing when they will strike again,” says an old woman only identified as Paulina, 89. At Kakong’, an area frequented by armed bandits, a pregnant Rebecca Asenyeni, 22 and her two children are mourning the death of their sole bread winner who was killed by armed bandits.

“I have nowhere to go. My husband used to sell charcoal to fend for us. I am also expecting a baby in a month’s time, but who will take care of us?” she quips through a translator because she neither understands nor speaks both English and Kiswahili. At a nearby home, Mzee Michael Lopai, 93, lies haplessly in his dilapidated Manyatta. His family fled the home following recent banditry attacks. The nonagenarian, who only speaks his native Turkana, says his home was raided and animals stolen after his two sons were killed. “I am waiting to die. Where can I go? My sons fled this area and went to look for food and shelter. I am alone, I cannot go anywhere let them come and kill me,” he says as a neighbour supports him to sit, but he falls over. His only property is the “shuka” that serves both as clothing and a sheet to keep him warm at night. With lurched openings from the walls of the manyatta, mzee peeps out and can tell night fall is near but cannot precisely say what time of day it is. Kakong’ has about 6,000 residents, with just two Kenya Police Reservists (KPR). Okure Adakerie and John Lokitrto are the only surviving KPR officers after armed bandits killed five of their colleagues.

“We cannot manage the population here but we will protect our people because we have no alternative,” says Adakerie adding that their work is pro bono. Two of their colleagues are nursing injuries they sustained while fighting armed bandits allegedly from Pokot.
Overpowered, “They numbered about 600 and came attacking from all directions. We were very few and they overpowered us, killing two of our own and injuring two who were recently release from hospital,” said Adakerie adding He reveals that three bodies are still rotting away about three kilometers from the village because residents fear lurking into the forests regarded as pokot hideouts. Lobokat Kainuk Ward representative Nicodemus Eguman said they lived in peace with their Pokot neighbours, albeit with normal cattle rustling, until 1983 when hell broke loose and attacks started taking political and land dimensions.

“After 1983 we were chased from Kainuk Hill and our people killed. We then came to Nakululumeit where we currently live. But our neighbours insist we still live in their land,” said. He said at least 15 people are killed and more than a 1,000 livestock stolen every week. He criticized security agents for often releasing inaccurate figures on the casualties during attacks, adding that the number of police officers is insufficient. “The public has lost faith in security agents and Government officers who blatantly lie on the figures. They can never say the truth because of fear of appearing as sleeping on the job,” he said. Kaptri Ward representative Shadrak Lodong’a says police take too long to respond to attacks even after receiving timely information. He says the area is vulnerable to attacks from the Pokot raiders following a decision by the Government to disarm police reservists. An administration police officer was shot in the area following an attack. He was shot at night after police shot dead a man and injured another when Kakong’ residents staged a demonstration, protesting the raging insecurity in the area. Heavily armed pokot bandits had attacked the village, killed five herders and one KPR officer before driving away over 2,000 goats, leaving owners who depended on their livestock vulnerable to famine. “The bandits attacked our villages and stole cattle and killed our people. But police who should have come to help us pursue the attackers turned against us and killed a man and left another seriously wounded,” said Lodong’a.

He says when Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo visited the area, following the killing of the officer, he ordered the disarmament of all KPR, and something the MCA says has left villagers vulnerable to more attacks. But Turkana South OCPD Kipsang Sangach disputes the claims, saying the police only confiscated the firearms for ballistic analysis in the investigations on the death of the AP officer who was shot at Nakwomuru camp about 7km from Kakong’ town. However, area leaders have questioned why guns were confiscated without replacements leaving the area vulnerable.

Ballistic laboratories “We did not disarm the KPR. They are a crucial component in the security of this area because they are the ones who understand the terrain. We took the firearms to our ballistic laboratories in Nairobi to ascertain whether the guns could have been involved in the killing of the AP officer,” said Kipsang. He says there are enough police officers to man the expansive area despite a few challenges but admitted that the fact that the area did not benefit from the latest batch of security vehicles will have serious consequences.

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2014 in Natural resources

 

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ALL EVICTIONS MUST BE WITHIN THE LAW:

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

 

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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

 

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Declare Insecurity National Disaster:

A team appointed to find a solution to insecurity in Marsabit County wants the Government to declare a state of emergency in the area. It also wants security to be enhanced and negotiations on allocation of resources in the area commenced. “The National Government should enhance security and declare insecurity in Marsabit a national disaster, negotiations and consultations on resource allocations have commenced and shall be embraced by all leaders with a view to finding means and ways of equitable distribution of resources,” read part of the declaration made at Boma Hotel in Nairobi on Saturday. Marsabit leaders have since agreed on the formation of an oversight team that will implement measures to realize peace in the area.

Former National Assembly Speaker Francis ole Kaparo and Garissa County Senator Yusuf Haji said they will present their report to President Uhuru Kenyatta next week, detailing the aspects of the agreement which will see equal resources distribution and reconstruction and resettlement of the displaced. “Reconstruction and resettlement shall take precedence in all the affected areas and the county government shall closely work with other organizations to facilitate this progress.”

Kenyatta had earlier this month given the Marsabit leaders a one-week ultimatum on peace, warning that if the negotiations fail, all measures will be taken to ensure peace returns to Marsabit, including presenting a proposal to Parliament on how that should be done.

Kaparo and Haji said in their efforts to mediate between the warring groups in Marsabit County, they travelled to the region and were shocked by the destruction and humanitarian crisis the fighting had left behind. “We are asking people from Moyale and Marsabit if they must have differences, then it must not go past a verbal exchange. Because we have seen war brings devastation such as the one we saw. We saw house and households which were torn apart and this will take a long time to undo and unite the societies,” said Kaparo.

He said the negotiations aimed at ending the conflict was successful because all the warring groups had respected a ceasefire, which had been imposed on February 6.

Source standard Newspaper 17th Feb2014

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2014 in latest news

 

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Communities Face Extinction After Forest Evictions

For centuries, the aboriginal Sengwer people have lived, hunted and gathered in Embobut Forest, Elgeyo/Marakwet and parts of West Pokot counties. The forest and its surrounding offered them a perfect home. However, the Government recently evicted them in efforts to restore the Cherenganyi water tower that is under threat following massive destruction of the forest. Already, most rivers that source water from the forest have dried up. Among them is Kerion, which feeds Lake Turkana while Lake Kamanorok in Kerio Valley has been reduced to a grazing field. The Sengwer claim the forest is their permanent home and some have defied Government’s order to relocate. Their defiance stems from the fear that if completely uprooted from the forest, the community might cease to exist, as it is known know. Their cousins, the Ogiek, were flashed out of Mau forest in 2008 as the Government embarked on a mission to reclaim the water tower. The Sengwer fear their survival and culture could be wiped out by the larger Kalenjin tribes.

They have been assimilated by the Marakwets while Ogiek have been ‘swallowed up’ by Maasai and Kipsigis. Both communities were purely hunters and gatherers spending all their time in the forest picking wild berries and other fruits as well as harvesting honey and hunting animals. But this was reversed forcing them to grow crops and keep cattle like other communities, which joined them in the forest thereby influencing their culture and lifestyle. Mzee Antony Chemengich, a member of the Sengwer community, says Embobut forest is the only home knows. He has found food, shelter and clothing in the habitat since he was born 73 years ago. “Where do we go if the Government wants us to get out of our homes,” asked the elderly man, who now lives under a tree after his house was burnt down by forest rangers. He says his forefathers were brought up and buried in the forest and if they are moved out, they would turn out to be refugees. Inhumane conditions

Since the 1970s, authorities have made repeated efforts to forcibly evict the Sengwer from the forest for resettlement in other areas. Mzee Chemengich notes that their history was being eroded and subsequent governments have failed to protect their rights and have subjected to inhumane conditions. “Our houses are being torched and property destroyed leaving us without any means of survival,” he says, and adds, “The Government found us living here. We have no other home…we will die here.” He alleges that those who were given money by the Government were outsiders. Chemengich notes that invasion of other communities in Embobut forest was the reason the Government evicted them. Benjamin Kemboi, Chemengich’s son, says their generosity has spelled doom to their survival. “We accommodated our neighbours but little did we know that one day we would be evicted from our homes,” he says. He adds the community has for a long time requested the Government to recognize Sengwer as one of the ethnic groups in Kenya.

“We are a distinct group. The Government has denied us identity as Sengwer. When carrying out population census, we are either counted as Kalenjin, Pokot, Marakwet, Keiyo, Sabaot,” says Kemboi. Away from the Sengwer, In Marioshoni, some 350km South of Embobut forest, Joseph Towett, an Ogiek, says Mau forest reminds him of honey he used to enjoy when he was young. Census Towett says: “The forest reminds me of honey. We used to be fed on bush honey but it is unfortunate our children are no longer enjoying it.” Towett, who has been leading efforts for the recognition of Ogiek, says it was painful that they had suffered because of other communities. He says the Ogiek, who according to a recent census number up to 20,000, were forced into the forest during the colonial period.

The Ogiek were only few and scattered and could not wage a resistance like the Nandi’s, who fought back the colonialists. “They had a small population and they could not resist or mount a defence,” says Towett, who is a leading figure in fighting for the community’s rights. The author of Ogiek Land Cases and Historical Injustices says since the Ogiek’s lifestyle was favored by the forest, which was rich in honey and wild animals, they settled in comfortably in the late 1800s. According to the book, the Ogiek subdivided the forest among their clans in 1856. The Ogiek Obom settled at Western Mau, Kapsangany were allocated land in Tindiret, Maasai Mau was occupied by Kaplelach and Eastern Mau went to Ipkerere and Muresionik. Kipchorgonik took parts of Western and Maasai Mau. The clans used physical features like trees, rivers and rocks to mark boundaries. Each clan lived and worked on a strip of land in the mountainous forest that was once their home. Indigenous people The Ogiek are often mistaken for the Maasai but they have no relationship other than being Nilotes. The Maasai refer to them as Dorobo, which is a derogatory term that means ‘sinful’ and ‘men without cattle’.

The United Nations has 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 people.” The UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People James Anaya expressed deep concern about reports that police are poised to forcibly evict Sengwer from Embobut forest. “Indigenous people shall not be forcibly relocated from their lands or territories,” Anaya said, quoting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. “No relocation shall take place without free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous people concerned.”

Source standard newspaper 31/01/2014

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2014 in INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES

 

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500 DIED IN CLASHES IN PASTORAL AREAS:

Inter-community conflicts left 491 people dead last year, a report released by a United Nations agency indicates. The conflicts, according to the UN Office for Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), left another 1,235 people injured while 47,050 were displaced from their homes.

The clashes were sparked by competition for political positions and other resources, according to the report. Although fighting may have subsided, issues that led to the violence in Tana River, Marsabit and Mandera counties remain unresolved. The Impacts of Inter-communal Conflicts report says those counties were the worst affected.

The UN agency, whose mandate is to strengthen response to complex emergencies and natural disasters, released the report on Tuesday. Leaders in the affected areas have been accusing the government of failing to stop the killings.

In Tana River, 222 people died in ethnic clashes, the report indicates. The Pokomos, who are farmers, and their pastoralist neighbours, the Orma, engaged in deadly violence that ended before the last General Election. The violence was blamed on incitement by politicians.

Despite the suffering and the highest number of deaths, Tana River had no displacement, according to the report. In Moyale, Marsabit County, the Gabra and their allies from Burji ethnic group fought gun battles with the Borana.

The fighting started after the latter lost seats in the General Election to those from a political group known as Regabu (Rendile, Gabras and Burji). Clashes also occurred in Turkana and West Pokot. Thirty four people died in skirmishes between Turkanas and Pokots on the one hand, and between the Merille and the Toposa from Ethiopia and South Sudan, respectively, on the other.

Massive displacement, the report notes, were in Moyale, where 40,000 people in a population of about 80,000 fled violence that left 15 people dead. Most of them went to live with their relatives in Ethiopia.
Some 2,000 were displaced in Baringo where pastoralists have been fighting over pasture and water points.

Source daily nation 6/02/2014

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2014 in News briefs

 

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