OGIEK JUU
("Ogiek up!" in KiSwahili)

Ogiek delegation in Arusha / Tanzania

Landmark Victory for the Ogiek and Justice delivered by the African Court

By Venatrix Fulmen - 26. May 2017

The African Court on Human and Peoples Rights, at its 45th session on 26 May 2017 in Arusha/Tanzania, delivered a long-awaited and unanimous judgement against the Kenya government in a case brought before it by the Ogiek indigenous people.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights had filed the case as the applicant and did proof the consistent violations and the denial of the human and land rights of the Ogiek by the respondent - the Republic of Kenya as state and governance.

Already in November 2009, when the Kenyan Forest Service (KFS) had delivered a potentially fatal blow against the Ogiek with the gazettment of an eviction order in October 2009 against the Ogiek and anyone else to vacate the ancestral homeland of the Ogiek - the Mau Forest Complex - within 30 days, the African Court had issued an order to suspend the implementation of the eviction notice.


In March 2013, the African Court issued an additional provisional measures order requiring the Kenyan Government to stop any land transactions in the Mau Forest and refrain from taking any action which would harm the case, until it had reached a decision. This order, however, has never been respected by the Kenyan state organs.

After dismissing the numerous objections of the government of Kenya, the African Court delivered today in Arusha a comprehensive judgement and the very clear ruling, read out over almost 2 hours by Hon. Justice Agustino Ramadani - the former President of the African Court.

The court found that the government of the Republic of Kenya illegally evicted members of the Ogiek community from the Mau Forest and has continuously violated the rights of the Ogiek - as it has been documented over many years - under Articles 1, 2, 8, 14, 17 (2/3), 21 and 22 of the African Charter on Peoples and Human Rights.

The Republic of Kenya has been given 6 months to implement the required remedies.

The court also ruled that concerning the now applicable demand for reparations as well as compensations and costs the Ogiek have 90 days to file an application and the Kenya state has adequately 90 days to respond to the demands. After this period the African Court will rule on the reparations to be awarded to the Ogiek community and its victims of abusive state power.

The Ogiek, a people of hunter-gatherer culture, who as forest dwellers lived in their aboriginal homeland - the Mau Forest Complex - since times immemorial, as well as ECOTERRA Intl., who stood by the Ogiek since 1986 in their struggle even during the post-election violence 2008/9 when several Ogiek were killed, as well as other important supporters like Friends of Peoples close to Nature (fPcN-interCultural), MRG and CEMIRIDE, welcomed the ruling as a fair and just land-mark ruling with significant implications also for other First Nations in Africa.

 

BACKGROUND:

The African Court on Human and Peoples Rights, at its 45th session on 26 May 2017 in Arusha, delivered a long-awaited judgement on a case brought before it, by the Ogiek indigenous peoples against the Kenyan government, for consistent violations and denial of their land rights.

‘This case was of fundamental importance for indigenous peoples in Africa, and particularly in the context of the continent-wide conflicts we are seeing between communities, sparked by pressures over land and resources,‘ said Lucy Claridge, Minority Rights Group International’s (MRG) Legal Director. ‘Ultimately the Court was ruling on the crucial role of indigenous peoples in the conservation of land and natural resources, and consequently, the mitigation of climate change in a region currently ravaged by drought and famine.’

The Ogiek, 35, 000 of whom are the victims in this landmark case, live in the Mau Forest Complex in the Rift Valley of Kenya. They are one of the last remaining forest-dwelling communities and among the most marginalised indigenous peoples in Kenya. They allege eight violations of their rights to life, property, natural resources, development, religion and culture by the Kenyan government under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to which Kenya is a signatory.

This is the first time the African Court, in operation since 2006, will rule on an indigenous peoples’ rights case and is by far the largest ever case brought before the Court. It was originally lodged with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, but was referred for the first time in history to the Court on the basis that it evinces serious and mass human rights violations.

‘This judgement is a huge milestone for the Ogiek community.

The case was first heard by the Court in November 2014.

In March 2013, the African Court issued a provisional measures order requiring the Kenyan Government to stop land transactions in the Mau Forest and refrain from taking any action which would harm the case, until it had reached a decision. This order unfortunately has not been respected.

For decades the Ogiek have been routinely subjected to arbitrary forced evictions from their ancestral land in the Mau Forest by the government, without consultation or compensation. This has had a detrimental impact on the pursuit of their traditional lifestyle, religious and cultural life, access to natural resources and their very existence as an indigenous people. The Ogiek have a spiritual, emotional and economic attachment to the forest. They rely on it for food, shelter and identity.

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