Torched Senger home. Photo: Justin Kenrick.
Kenya: police begin Forest People evictions
23rd January 2014
The Kenyan government has begun to forcibly evict tens of thousands of Sengwer indigenous people from their ancestral forest lands and burn their homes, food stores and belongings to the ground. The World Bank wrings its hands.
Tens of thousands of people will lose their homes and livelihoods - and their entire way of life will be brought to an end.
The Kenyan government has sent Kenya Forest Service (KFS) guards, with police support, to Embobut Forest in the Cherangany Hills to expel Sengwer indigenous communities.
"By carrying out these evictions and burnings, the Kenyan government is completely ignoring the orders of its own courts, its Constitution, and its international legal commitments", said Justin Kenrick of the Forest Peoples' Programme. "It is acting as though it is above the law."
In March 2013 Eldoret High Court issued an interim injunction which forbids the Kenya Forest Service forest guards and the police from carrying out evictions and burnings of Sengwer homes. This injunction was renewed in November 2013.
Who will guard the guards themselves?
On 18 January 2014, the Judge at Eldoret High Court issued further orders requiring that the police arrest anyone breaching the injunction. However, as the police are providing support to the KFS guards carrying out the evictions, they themselves are breaching the injunction.
These evictions are also a severe violation of the Kenyan Constitution, as well as international law on human rights, biodiversity conservation and sustainable use.
Article 63 (d) of the Kenyan Constitution recognises the rights of communities to own ancestral lands traditionally occupied by hunter-gatherers.
However the Kenya Forest Service, with police support, are continuing to burn Sengwer homes and evict Sengwer communities in the Embobut area of the Cherangany Hills.
They are also planning to extend evictions to all other areas in the Cherangany Hills forest complex to include Kapolet and Lelan / Kamolokon.
The World Bank
The problems began after 2007 when the the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) began receiving funding from the World Bank for a Natural Resource Management Project (NRMP).
Every year since then (apart from 2012) Sengwer homes have been being burnt by KFS guards in a process of harassment and intimidation that completely disregards the Bank's safeguard policies.
It also disregards the Bank's own Indigenous Peoples Plan (IPP) that was drawn up prior to the project. The IPP highlighted the fact that unless the project secured Sengwer rights to their land, then far from improving livelihoods it would devastate communities.
A spokesman for the World Bank said: "Community complaints about the NRMP have led to an investigation of the project by the Bank's independent Inspection Panel, which is currently being carried out.
"The Bank remains concerned about the reports of evictions in the Embobut forest and as part of its ongoing dialogue with the Government of Kenya, continues to urge the Government to adhere to good international practice for land acquisition and resettlement."
The entire Sengwer population is being displaced
But while the World Bank reports, the removal of the entire population of Sengwer indigenous people living in the Cherangany Hills from their ancestral lands is under way.
Tens of thousands of people will lose their homes and livelihoods - and their way of life will be brought to an end.
"The Kenyan Government have done this under a fortress conservation approach which seeks to remove local people from their lands - and which makes the environmental situation worse while creating a human rights crisis", says Kenrick.
"The Government replaces them with the Kenya Forest Service - whose track record at nearby Mount Elgon demonstrates that when the KFS is in control then indigenous forest is fast destroyed, as profit making plantations and agriculture replace the biodiversity of the indigenous forest."
Sengwer Aid: Information + link to their own petition.
Background in The Ecologist: Kenya - forest people facing violent eviction
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