The Ogiek, an indigenous community in Kenya that has for years since pre-colonial- period faced forceful evictions from the Mau Forest now wants the government to fast track the implementation of a ruling by the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights made in their favour a year ago. The ruling made on May, 26, 2017 upheld the recognition of Ogiek as an indigenous community, a distinct population part and parcel of the larger Kenyan population. It concluded that the government of Kenya infringed on the community’s rights to property, natural resources, development, culture and religion. The court further granted the Ogiek people the right to reparations and remedy to which the Kenyan government is to adhere to.
One year now since the ruling was made, the community of around 45,000 people feel they have not won the battle yet. They say the implementation may take longer than they expected due to political issues surrounding the land they want back. Some community members are however hopeful that there will be light at the end of the tunnel.
According to an article published on the Aljazeera, the ministry of environment formed a 17-member taskforce in November 2017 to establish both registration and status of the claimed land and recommend measures to provide redress to the Ogiek’s claim. The Ministry said the taskforce has reviewed the judgment and related policies and legislations and has “appreciated the gravity of the matter”. The body says it is preparing to hold meetings with leaders and affected community for dialogue, adding that it was also consulting with a separate “taskforce on forest resources moratorium since it was also looking at forest resources management vis a vis communities living near the forest”.
In a celebration held in Nakuru on 27th May 2018 to commemorate the first anniversary since the court’s ruling, participants called upon the government to provide justice to the Ogiek, who have been caused extensive damages over the years resulting from persistent evictions from their ancestral land- The Mau Forest. The community says they have lost property, livelihoods, lives and their social connections including schools, lifestyles and undertakings in the forest. They want to go back to the place they call home, where their ancestors lived. Attending the celebration, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights chairperson Kagwiria Mbogori welcomed the ruling saying it’s now time for the government to do its part and respect the rights of the Ogiek.
As they look forward to the decision by the Kenyan government, the community’s cry for justice gets louder. They say the continued prohibition of access to Mau Forest resources prevents the sustainability of their traditional hunter-gatherer way of life, violating their right to life under article 4 of the African Charter. In regards to conserving Mau Forest, the community says it is better placed to conserve and protect it since their livelihood depends on it and would no way destroy their ancestral land, or their way of life.