Ogiek pile pressure on State over court decision

Commission on Administrative Justice (CAJ) chairperson Florence Kajuju addresses members of the Ogiek community at Kiptunga forest in Mariashoni, Nakuru County. [Courtesy]

The multi-sectoral committee implementing the African Court's decision that the Kenyan government grants Ogiek people a collective land title deed to the Mau forest has begun fact-finding activities in the Mau ecosystem.

The team that was joined by the Commission on Administrative Justice (CAJ) chairperson Florence Kajuju, pitched tent in Kiptunga forest at Marioshoni in Nakuru County for three days, as part of a follow-up by the Ombudsman on the implementation of the ruling issued on June 23, last year.

The community under the leadership of Daniel Kobei, the Executive Director of the Ogiek People’s Development Programme, has been pushing the government to issue them with a communal title deed as part of the court’s decision.

“We had proposed that the community land is given as per counties so that they can easily be managed,” Kobei told the delegation, arguing that this will protect the parcel of land from unnecessary sale.

A section of the Ogiek people still residing in the forest said the implementation of the decision will end land squabbles. The community has proposed to have 10 community deeds in the areas where members are located.

They cited areas such as Eastern Mau, Narok North and South, Uasin Gishu County, Nandi, Koibatek and Kipkelion.

They told the government delegation that once the court decision is implemented, they will manage themselves well and avoid disputes.

Also present during the site visits were National Land Commissioner Hubbie H. Al-haji, Kenya National Commission of Human Rights (KNCHR) CEO Dr Bernard Mogesa, Nakuru County Commissioner Floyd Kibaara and representatives from the National Cohesion and Integration Commission and Ogiek Peoples' Development Programme.

The Commission heard oral presentations by members of the community on alleged violation of their rights by the State and inordinate delays in the implementation of the judgement by the African Court. 

The site visit in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) brought together stakeholders to discuss issues affecting the Mau residents in relation to the implementation of the ruling.

On June 23 last year, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights ruled that the Kenyan government must grant the Ogiek people collective land title to the Mau forest and pay them Sh185,895,222.97 ($1.3 million) as compensation for historical injustices.

The Mau forest in southwestern Kenya has been home to the Indigenous Ogiek people since time immemorial. The Ogiek, who depend on hunting, gathering, and small-scale farming for their livelihoods, have faced countless evictions from their ancestral homelands since the beginning of British colonial rule.

The reasons for eviction include industrial agriculture and logging, but the most recent cases have been about the Kenyan government blaming the Ogiek for deforestation and degradation of the ecosystem.

In 2009 following another eviction order from the Kenya Forest Service, the Ogiek brought a case to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which was later taken to the African Court.

Finally, in 2017, the Court ruled that the Mau forest is the ancestral home of the Ogiek; that the government had violated the rights of the indigenous people to their lands; and that their evictions have not supported protecting the forests.

However, rather than implement the Court’s decision, the government continued violating Ogiek’s rights.

In July 2020, for instance, more than 100 Ogiek families were violently evicted and their infrastructures destroyed in Mau forest.

The government’s failure to implement the decision from 2017 led to a further judgment by the same court on June 23, this year.