NEWS 2013


Tuesday, March 19, 2013 17:13



The Ogiek, the meanwhile world-famous honey-hunters of the Mau forest in Kenya, booked another success in their struggle for survival and the rights to their forest homeland.

The African Court of Human and People’s Rights of the African Union (AU), following the line of arguments presented by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, ordered the Government of the Republic of Kenya to immediately halt any eviction of Ogiek from their ancestral forests, which the Ogiek had protected since times immemorial. It were the Ogiek who preserved the old growth forest of indigenous trees, resisted against the colonial plantations of non-indigenous species and thereby maintained the capacity of the Mau Forest Range as one of the five major water towers of Kenya until today.

The Ogiek had received their recognition as a people of Kenya only during the recent process leading to the new constitution. The subsequently established Mau Task Force, implemented by the Office of the Prime Minister, had clearly reported not only on the injustices against the Ogiek from the times when the colonial government – imposed by Britain – had robbed and transformed the Ogiek’s forests into governmental estates, but also listed the land grabbing by outsiders – including former state president Daniel arap Moi – and other issues of indigenous peoples’ rights, which had been so far unresolved.

In this context, the Court ruled that the Kenyan Government also should stop any distribution of land in the Mau forest to outsiders, a scourge which especially in pre-election times had become rampant and caused in the months of the post-election violence period of 2007/2008 the death of many peace-loving Ogiek in armed clashes, which did cost the lives of almost 1,500 Kenyans and turned 600,000 Kenyan citizens into so-called Internally Displaced People (IDPs), of which many still have not been settled again.

In the just concluded but already contested presidential and general elections of 2013 the forced influx of non-Ogiek into Ogiek lands and the biased demarcation of constituencies by the heavily criticized so-called Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) led to the now factual situation that the Ogiek, though being an indigenous First Nation of today’s multi-national state of Kenya, still have not even one governmental representative – neither in parliament nor in the newly created Senate.

While all presidential candidates during pre-election times vowed to work hard for the rectification of historical injustices, it remains to be seen if and when the Kenyan governance will follow this landmark ruling by the Human Rights Court of the African Union and implement the measures ordered to be executed within 15 days.

Kenya ordered to stop eviction 

Arusha. The African Court of Human and People’s Rights has ordered the Kenyan government to stop the eviction of the Ogiek Community members and other settlers from the Mau Forest on grounds the forest constituted a reserved water catchment area.

In a judgement made on Friday, the Court, which is based here, also ruled that the same government should postpone distribution of land in the contested forest area, pending the decision of the court on the matter.

The order also enjoins the government of Kenya to report on execution of the measures in 15 days. The suit was filed by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. 

The applicant alleges that the government, through the Kenya Forestry Service, has demanded the Ogiek Community and other settlers of the Mau Forest to move out on grounds that the forest constitutes a reserved water catchment zone and wasn’t “in any event” part and parcel of government land under Section 4 of the Government Land Act.

In that regard, the applicant requests for imposition of provisional measures to stop the government from evicting the Ogiek and other settlers of the Mau Forest following a 30-day eviction notice issued in October 2009 and related statements made by some Kenyan authorities.

The applicant submits that the eviction would have far reaching implications on the political, social and economic survival of the Ogiek, one of the indigenous communities which consider the forest their ancestral land and that the eviction may result in irreparable harm to the victims.

Text: Zephania Ubwani – The Citizen Bureau Chief


African Court issues historic ruling protecting rights of Kenya's Ogiek Community

20 March 2013

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) welcomes the recent decision of the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights preventing the eviction by the Government of the Ogiek community from their ancestral homes in Kenya's Mau Forest.

This is the first time the African Court, in operation since 2006, has intervened to protect the rights of an indigenous community.

‘The Government of Kenya must now fully respect the decision of the Court, which effectively bans land transactions in the Mau Forest Complex,' says Lucy Claridge, MRG's Head of Law.   ‘The court found that, if land transactions continue, there exists a situation of extreme gravity and urgency as well as a risk of irreparable harm to the Ogiek.' 

The Mau Forest, one of the main water catchment areas in Kenya, is home to an estimated 15,000 Ogiek families who claim to be indigenous owners of the land. A minority group, the Ogiek have faced, since colonial times, consistent persecution and denial of their land rights, worsening over the last two decades.

Most recently, the Ogiek have been threatened with eviction from their homes in the Eastern Mau, without due consultation, under the guise of protecting the environment. The Ogiek maintain that the forest is most at risk from large-scale logging rather than their own sustainable and traditional practices.

In 2009, frustrated by the lack of progress through national policy and judicial processes, the Ogiek - through MRG, the Ogiek Peoples' Development Programme (OPDP) and Centre for Minority Rights (CEMIRIDE) - decided to file a case with the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights. 

In 2012, the Commission referred the matter to the African Court, on the grounds that it evinced serious and mass human rights violations. 

In its ruling, the court, based in Arusha, Tanzania, ordered the government of Kenya to halt parceling out land in the disputed forest area until the Court reaches a decision in the matter. 

The African Court also ruled that the Kenyan government must refrain from taking any action which would harm the case, until it had reached a decision in the matter.  It reached this decision out of concern that the government's current actions violate the Ogiek's right to enjoyment of their cultural and traditional values, their right to property, as well as their right to economic, social and cultural development, all of which are enshrined in the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights. Kenya is a signatory to the Charter.

‘For many years, the Ogiek have suffered displacement or been threatened with eviction from their ancestral lands, and action is urgently needed to protect their livelihoods, and indeed their survival as an indigenous community. This ruling from the African Court is a positive step towards realization of justice for the Ogiek,' says Daniel Kobei, OPDP's Executive Director.

Notes for editors:

•Minority Rights Group International is a non-governmental organization working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide

•For more information please contact:

MRG Press Office in Africa - Mohamed Matovu
T: +256 312266832
M: +256 782748189

Lucy Claridge, MRG Head of Law
M: +44 (0) 7866 741922

Daniel Kobei, OPDP Executive Director

M: +254722433757



African Court: Ogiek people cannot be evicted

April 19 2013

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights issued provisional measures to ensure that the Ogiek people of the Mau forest cannot be evicted by the Kenyan government, while the matter continues before the court.

The Ogiek people are one of a number of hunter-gatherer peoples in Kenya threatened by forced land evictions.

This historical result was announced mid-March after the Ogiek case recenty became the first indigenous rights case to come before the court since it began in 2006.

While the case is likely to be heard by the court over a number of months, the decision is a clear success for the Ogiek people and other indigenous peoples in Africa. By ordering the government to reinstate former restrictions on land transactions in the Mau forest, the court has brought global attention to the seriousness of the Ogiek people's plight.

With IWGIA support, our partner in the region, OGIEK Peoples' Development Program (OPDP), first took the case to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights. The commission then transferred the case to the court, where rulings are legally binding.

Our project with OPDP empowers the Ogiek people to monitor and document human rights violations made against them, and to take action. IWGIA co-funded their initiative to take their case to the commission, along with Minority Rights Group.

As long as their case is before the court, the Ogiek people cannot be evicted from their land. This historic case has good potential to set a precedent against forced land evictions in Africa.