One of the major water catchment areas of the country, the Mau Forest Complex is primarily the ancestral home of the marginalized, Indigenous hunter-gatherer Ogiek community. Over the past decade, other communities have invaded the ancestral lands of the Ogiek—allegedly settling there through fraudulent methods. This has intermittently led to resource conflicts(link is external) on ethnic lines. Using the cover of settling these conflicts, the Kenya Forest Service has been carrying out brutal evictions, deeming the Ogiek as encroachers on their own land.
After over a decade of seeking justice in Kenyan courts, the Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program (OPDP)(link is external) elevated the issue to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in 2009(link is external). This was done soon after the government issued eviction notices to around 35,000 Ogiek, plus other settlers. The case was then referred to the African Court of Human and Peoples Rights in Arusha, Tanzania on the basis that it evinces serious and mass human rights violations.(link is external) The Kenyan government was found to be in severe violation of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and a historic judgment(link is external) was issued in the community’s favor in 2017. The judgment was also significant as it recognized the indispensable role Indigenous communities play as the guardians of local ecosystems. The African Court of Human and Peoples Rights stressed the importance of recognizing the community’s land rights as well as cultural rights, both deeply imbricated in the matrix of the forest’s ecosystem.
*The views of the above article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Africa Speaks 4 Africa or its editorial team.