November 06, 2009
Minority Rights Group requests urgent UN intervention in illegal eviction of Kenya's Ogiek community
Source: Minority Rights Group International (MRG)
With over 15,000 Ogiek families facing forced eviction from their ancestral home, the Mau Forest Complex in Kenya, Minority Rights Group International (MRG) has written to several UN experts, urging their immediate intervention to halt the removals.
The Government of Kenya has set 31 December as the deadline to "recover a total of 24,000 hectares of Mau Forest", the ancestral home of the Ogiek community. However, in common with most indigenous peoples, the Ogiek have no title deeds evidencing their ownership of the land.
The actions of the Government of Kenya, according to MRG, in forcibly evicting over 15,000 Ogiek from their ancestral homes violate key human rights obligations contained in international instruments.
"The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights specifically states that evictions can only be justified in strict compliance with the general principles of reasonableness and proportionality and with appropriate procedural protection and due process," reads part of the MRG's letter to the UN.
Out of concern about loss of forest cover in Kenya and its wide-ranging negative impacts, the Kenyan government established a task force in July 2008 to preserve the Mau Forest Complex ecosystem. This task force recommended the evictions.
"While we appreciate the Kenyan government's concern for the environment, the process has been characterised by a lack of any meaningful consultation or explanations. This blanket approach to resettlement fails to take into account the Ogiek's ancestral rights over the land in question. And the evictions pose a serious threat to the Ogieks' culture," says Carl Soderbergh, MRG's Director of Policy and Communications.
The Mau Forest is one of the five main water catchment areas in Kenya, feeding Lakes Victoria, Nakuru and Natron. However, according to the Ogiek Peoples Development Program, a local NGO, and Survival International, satellite imaging shows that the main cause of loss of forest cover is the encroachment of purely commercial interests, including logging and agriculture, as well as human settlements, but not activities of the Ogiek.
The Ogiek's main source of livelihood is beekeeping, which is beneficial to forest preservation and ecological diversity.
Although the government has claimed that the Ogieks would be allowed to return to the forest, many Ogiek believe that this is a deliberate ploy to remove them from their homes.
In its annual global ranking titled "Peoples Under Threat" 2009, MRG warned that, without some resolution of the land issues that underpinned discontent in 2008, there may be a renewal of violence in some parts of Kenya.
Notes to the Editor
1. Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is a non governmental organisation working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide
2. The letter was copied to the following UN experts;
- Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people
- Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance
- Special Rapporteur on adquate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context.
3. Interview opportunities are with;
Daniel M. Kobei, Executive Director Ogiek Peoples Development Program (OPDP) Tel: 254-51-2213803 - 254-20-2045167 - 254-722 433 757, firstname.lastname@example.org
Carl Soderbergh, Head of Policy and Communications, Minority Rights Group International
T: +44 207 4224205
M: +44 7837 533 675
Lucy Claridge, Head of Law, Minority Rights Group International
T: +44 207 4224205
M: +44 7866 741922
iv. The Peoples Under Threat survey seeks to identify those peoples or groups that are most under threat of genocide, mass killing or other systematic violent repression in 2009. This is the fifth year that MRG has compiled the ranking. 2009 ranking can be found at http://www.minorityrights.org/7927/peoples-under-threat/peoples-under-threat-2009.html
For more information and to arrange interviews contact the MRG Africa Regional Information Officer:
Matovu Mohamed T: +256 312 266 832
M: + +256 782 748 189 E: email@example.com
Media Officer in London
T: +442074224205 or +447870596863