Kenyan Forest People Face Imminent Eviction Threat – Rights Group

Kenyan authorities have sent in some 150 forest guards and police officers to prepare for an eviction of thousands of indigenous and other people from forest land in western Kenya, forest activists say.

The UK-based Forest Peoples Programme (FPP), which advocates for the rights of forest dwellers, said some people are already fleeing their homes out of fear. Any forced eviction of the Sengwer and Cherangay communities from their ancestral forest lands in Embobut, Elgeyo Marakwet County, would violate the Kenyan constitution and international law on human rights, FPP stated.

It would also be in contempt of an injunction secured at the High Court in the nearby town of Eldoret that forbids any evictions until the issue of the communities’ rights to their land is resolved, FPP added. A court case on this is due to resume on February 6.

On Monday, Kenyan and international environmental and human rights groups sent an appeal to the Kenyan president and government, as well as to the United Nations, calling for protection of the rights of the indigenous communities.

“The forced eviction of these indigenous communities is illegal – and even more so if it is carried out through violent acts such as the burning of homes, school uniforms, books and means of livelihood.

Such forced evictions have been carried out repeatedly (most recently in May 2013 despite the interim injunction), but this time the government is serious about permanently removing communities,” the FPP said in a statement, asserting that the government had not undertaken “any meaningful attempt to secure people’s free, prior and informed consent to such a process”.

Justin Kenrick, policy adviser for Africa for FPP, told Thomson Reuters Foundation the government wants to take control of the forest land “to make money out of it” under the guise of managing natural resources. The state maintains it has asked those living in the area – between 7,000 and 13,000 people – to move out in order to protect biodiversity and ease pressure on over-stretched water resources.[Read more]