Ruling against the Kenyan government comes as the government tries to put objections to the May 2017 landmark ruling in favor of the Mau-complex Indigenous community
The African Court of Human and Peoples Rights in Arusha, Tanzania, has dismissed all state objections of the Kenyan government regarding the Mau Forest. The Court has ordered Kenya to grant a collective title to the Ogiek ancestral land.
By a unanimous ruling, the Court found the actions of the Respondent state to violate several rights of the Ogiek community.
On 26 May 2017, the Court delivered a landmark judgment that upheld the rights of the Ogiek community with absolute surety over their ancestral land in the Mau. But the Kenyan government objected to this ruling, asking the Court to rescind its decisions. On 9 July 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, over 100 Ogiek families, including nine families in Maasai Mau (about 600 persons), were evicted and rendered homeless by the Kenya Forest Service.
The Court found the actions of the Respondent state to violate several rights of the Ogiek community.
Five years after the 2017 ruling, the Court reconvened yesterday in Arusha and reinforced its 2017 judgement, ordering reparations from the Kenyan government in favour of the Ogiek, of which:
- Financial reparations of 57,850,000 Ksh (about $492,000) for material damages and 100,000,000 Ksh (about $850,000) for moral damages—are to be paid into a community development fund established within 12 months from 23 June 2022
- Delivery of a collective title to the Ogiek through delimitation and demarcation
- Full recognition of the Ogiek, including their language, cultural and religious practices, by 23 June 2023
- Recognition, respect for, and protection of the rights of the Ogiek to be consulted, within their traditions and customs, regarding the development or conservation projects on the Ogiek ancestral land
- Publication of both May 2017 judgment and reparations judgment in the official gazette and a national newspaper, and on an official government website, within six months from 23 June 2022.
Now it’s clear they [the Kenyan government] will have to do the delineation. The issue of free, prior and informed consent was clear - Daniel Kobei, OPDP
The Ogiek community, which mobilized its members to hear the 2022 Arusha ruling, could not hold back their joy. “Yesterday we had a landmark ruling (for the second time), and the community is excited and happy,” said Daniel Kobei, Executive Director of the Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program, to International Land Coalition.
“Now it’s clear they [the Kenyan government] will have to do the delineation. The issue of free, prior and informed consent was clear. Anything happening at the Mau Forest complex will need a consultation with the Ogiek community. And any benefit arising from the Mau will have a benefit-sharing mechanism with the Ogiek community.”
It is a strong recognition of and support for Indigenous Peoples’ rights to their ancestral land in Kenya and Africa - Audace Kubwimana, ILC
The Court’s ruling came as Indigenous Peoples in the East African region have been experiencing concerns of evictions from their ancestral lands: the Maasai in Tanzania and the Batwa in Uganda. The ruling will give hope to the region’s troubled Indigenous communities.
Audace Kubwimana, the ILC Africa Regional Coordinator, said: “We are pleased by the Ogiek’s last victory. It is a strong recognition of and support for Indigenous Peoples’ rights to their ancestral land in Kenya and Africa. We call upon the Kenyan government to fully implement the Judgement.”
About 15,000 inhabit the greater Mau Forest Complex, a land mass of about 400,000 hectares straddling seven administrative districts.
The Ogiek are an indigenous minority ethnic group in Kenya comprising about 20,000 members. About 15,000 inhabit the greater Mau Forest Complex, a land mass of about 400,000 hectares straddling seven administrative districts.
In 2009, Ogiek families in the Complex were issued a thirty (30) day eviction notice by the Kenya Forest Service on the ground of seeking to conserve the forest as a water catchment area.
It is now the hope that the Ogiek can stay peacefully on their land – on which they depend for their livelihoods.