Two representatives of indigenous peoples in Kenya charged that the government fails to respect their rights, while a member of the country's UN delegation argued that the Constitution is creating a "new relationship between the government and the governed."
Picture: A group of Ogiek men at a meeting in Nakuru during a past function. Photo/FILE
Speaking on behalf of African indigenous women, Kenyan anti-violence campaigner Agnes Leina told the forum in New York that the Constitution is "very beautiful, but implementation of laws is the problem."
Ms Leina said pastoralist women in northern Kenya are denied property rights despite constitutional guarantees of equality. "The Constitution says one thing," she declared, "but practice says another."
Pastoralist women are also routinely raped and beaten, Ms Leina said.
Women in pastoralist communities are not benefiting from the government's stated commitments to improving access to education and health services, she added.
Three-quarters of pastoralist women remain illiterate, Ms Leina noted. Women, including those who are nine months pregnant, must walk several miles to reach clinics, she said.
Peter Kiplangat Cheruiyot, Programme Officer of the Ogiek People's Development Programme, also addressed the indigenous peoples' forum, charging that "the Kenyan government has ignored court rulings protecting Ogiek claims to their lands."
He pointed out that the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights had said the Ogiek must not be evicted from their ancestral homes in the Mau Forest.
Noting that "quite a lot has been said" about Kenya at the forum, government representative John Mosoti assured his listeners that the Constitution specifically protects the rights of minorities in the country.
Mr Mosoti added that the newly devolved system of governance in Kenya will enable every community, even the smallest, to make decisions on use of its resources.
He acknowledged that challenges remain. "Resources are never enough," Mr Mosoti said, adding, "It takes a bit of time" for a new system of government to function effectively.
The UN's Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues is also chaired by a Kenyan: Paul Kanyinke Sena, a member of the Ogiek community.
- In the May 2017, African Court on Human and People's Rights said the Kenyan government had violated the rights of the Ogiek community.
- Already, Narok leaders have differed on the evictions.
Narok North MP Moitalel Ole Kenta said the evictions must continue, while Governor Tunai is said to be against the evictions.
Deputy President William Ruto has supported the planned evictions of more than 2,400 settlers from the Mau Forest Complex.
Speaking yesterday during a fundraiser at Sogoo High School in Narok South, Mr Ruto said: "In the Mau Forest, we have marked boundaries. I want all those who have gone beyond the boundaries to move out immediately. Mimi sitaki mchezo(I am not joking)."
However, the Ogiek have urged President Uhuru Kenyatta to stop the planned evictions and help implement a judgment made last year by the Arusha-based African Court on Human and People's Rights. They also urged him to form a multi-agency team to conclusively deal with issues of land ownership and environmental degradation.
Speaking yesterday in Nakuru, the community's leaders led by Council of Elders chairman Joseph Towett urged President Kenyatta to involve all relevant ministries and stakeholders in resolving contentious issues within the complex. "Mau Forest issues need a permanent solution. We appeal to President Kenyatta to constitute a multi-agency team that will handle and resolve all contentious matters," said Mr Towett.
In the May 2017 ruling, the Arusha court said the Kenyan government had violated the rights of the community by evicting them from their ancestral land in the Rift Valley. It also said the Ogieks were not consulted on the evictions.
The ruling — the culmination of a five-year legal battle — was a major victory for the Ogiek following repeated evictions.
The court told the government “to take all appropriate measures within a reasonable time-frame to remedy all the violations established” and inform it of the progress within six months. It told the Ogiek to file their requests for reparations within two months.
The Ogiek made yesterday’s appeal a week after the Kenya Forest Service (KFS), Narok Commissioner George Natembeya, Kenya Water Towers Agency and the county government ordered the over 2,400 settlers to pull down their homes and leave the forest.
The planned evictions were, however, put off temporarily last week by the government after a standoff between KFS and Narok Governor Samuel Tunai.
KFS Chief Conservator Monica Kalenda (below) and Mr Natembeya accused the settlers, most of whom are Ogieks, of encroaching on Kosia, Sasimua and Ilpolton areas of the forest. Already, Narok leaders have differed on the evictions.
While some leaders have opposed the evictions, Narok North MP Moitalel Ole Kenta said the evictions must continue if the future of Kenya's largest water tower is to be safeguarded.
Although Governor Tunai has not announced his stand on the issue, sources say he does not support the evictions. According to a source, the governor's intervention last week made the security team to call off the planned evictions.
Speaking on phone, Mr Kenta said politics should be divorced from environmental conservation. He claimed that settlements in Mau will not end until after the 2022 polls and accused Mr Tunai of lacking moral authority to stop the evictions. On Friday, KF Chairman Peter Kinyua reiterated the agency’s resolve to reinforce county government rangers and other enforcement teams to flush out loggers and illegal settlers.