Over 1,000 Ogiek people have been forcibly evicted from their ancestral lands in the Maasai Mau Forest Complex by Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) rangers. The evictions, which began on November 2, 2023, have left the community homeless and without access to their belongings.
Minority Rights Group (MRG) executive director Joshua Castellino has condemned the evictions, calling them "violent" and "illegal." The group has called on the government to immediately cease the evictions and provide compensation to those affected.
"The community has been subjected to untold suffering and nowhere to go, the government should have consulted the community before carrying out the eviction," Castellino said when he visited the evicted families in their makeshift camp over the weekend.
He said the government’s actions directly violate two landmark judgements issued by the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights; one in May 2017 that recognised the Ogiek community’s ownership over their ancestral land in the Mau Forest Complex, and another in June 2022 that ordered the Kenyan government to return the land to the community.
He added that the court recognised the crucial role the Ogiek play in safeguarding their local ecosystems and its resources, and in conserving biodiversity in their ancestral territories.
"The government repeatedly flouts these judgements and continues to cite the need to conserve the Mau Forest to justify its actions. On October 21, 2023, the Chief Conservator of Forests said it seeks to reclaim the Mau Forest Complex to protect its key water tower, which is allegedly ‘facing challenges of encroachment and destruction,” Castellino added.
The Ogiek community has lived in the Mau Forest for centuries and has played a crucial role in safeguarding its ecosystems and resources. They have a deep understanding of the forest and its inhabitants, and they have traditionally used their knowledge to sustainably manage the land.
Castellino wants the government to facilitate humanitarian support for the community affected by the violent actions of KFS and KWS rangers and ensure that those affected by the current eviction campaign receive adequate compensation for the damages they have suffered.
He also wants the government to implement the judgements issued by the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in 2017 and 2022, saying that it is long overdue and the government must end its delay tactics.