Last week, the World Bank and the Kenyan Government held a meeting aimed at finding a positive way forward following years of evictions of indigenous people living in the Embobut Forest in the Cherangany Hills. Days before the meeting started, 30 Sengwer houses were burned.
Just before the meeting started, members of the Sengwer community put out a statement about the evictions and asked people to write to the World Bank and the Kenyan Government.
On 4 March 2015, the day the meeting started, REDD-Monitor wrote to the World Bank and the Kenyan Government with a series of questions focussing on what actions had been carried out between the recent evictions and the start of the meeting. The email is available here.
On 9 March 2015, REDD-Monitor received the reply below from Diariétou Gaye, Country Director for Eritrea, Kenya and Rwanda at the World Bank.
A couple of quick observations. Gaye doesn’t reply to any of my questions. I didn’t ask about what happened during the meeting, I asked what happened between the recent evictions and the meeting.
Gaye provides a link to the World Bank’s website about the meeting. It makes no mention of the recent evictions, as I pointed out in a post on REDD-Monitor on 6 March 2015. The post includes the report of a community task-force to the Embobut forest on 2 March 2015.
Below Gaye’s response is a statement from the Kenyan Government.
From: Diarietou Gaye firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: 9 March 2015 at 07:02
Subject: RE: Evictions of Sengwer people in Kenya
To: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Sengwerindigenouspeoples@gmail.com
Thank you for your recent email which I read with great concern given your reports of ongoing evictions.
As you will know, the World Bank has never supported forced evictions of communities from Kenya’s forests. We raised your reports with senior Kenyan government officials in person late last week when we organized a three-day Colloquium in Eldoret to deepen dialogue among stakeholders in the forestry sector in Kenya.
The meeting provided a form for frank and promising exchanges between nearly 300 leaders of the Sengwer, Ogiek, Yiaku, Aweer, Kaya, Masai, Samburu, Illchamus and Endorois communities, representatives of the national and county governments, members of international civil society, research institutes and representatives of development agencies.
Participants made repeated references to the importance of the Colloquium as an opportunity to engage meaningfully on the complex issues besetting the forestry sector, and to establish an ongoing dialogue between the government and forest-dependent communities to address precisely the kinds of questions you raise.
The government took serious note of the allegations and arranged for interested community leaders and members of civil society to visit the area to make their own assessment. The government’s statement is available www.environment.go.ke while others who visited the site have issued or are preparing their own reports. Even where they might differ in their interpretations, all were of the view that the dialogue initiated at the Colloquium was invaluable and must be continued.
To get a sense of the discussions, please visit www.worldbank.org.
With my best wishes, Diarietou Gaye
Forest Communities Agree on Conservation
Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, Kenya
Forest dependent communities in North rift have kicked off a dialogue with the Government to seek permanent solutions to the constant conflict over occupation and rights to derive livehood from the natural resource.
Leaders from the minority communities of Sengwer,Ichamus, Eldrois and Ogiek, gathered in Eldoret during a round table meeting organized by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources. The communities expressed their desire to conserve the environment if they were allowed to earn their livelihood from forests products.
The forum which was opened by the Environment Cabinet Secretary Prof. Judi Wakhungu and attended by county governments, senators and members of parliament is a crucial component in the ongoing forestry reforms under the National Forest Development programme.
Illegal occupation and destruction of forests in Embobut and Mau water towers has dominated the local scene over the last few years, prompting the Government to evict the concerned families.
The government and the concerned communities agreed during the meeting to resolve the conflict amicably.
The CS told the meeting of the Government’s commitment to incorporate views of forest dependent communities in development plans among them the National forest development programme in order to address their rights to access forest resources. She urged the communities to always seek open dialogue with the Government through elected representatives.
Prof. Wakhungu noted that the Ogiek and Sengwer communities were among those in ten counties that had identified their representatives to hold future structured dialogue with the government.
She said communities were custodians of rich indigenous knowledge that was useful in forestry conservation adding that such knowledge would complement modern science in environmental management. “there is need for close collaboration between policy implementers and community indigenous knowledge alongside borrowing of international best practices in formulation of policies, legislation and institutional reforms” she observed.
Prof. Wakhungu promised that her ministry would promote harmony between people and forests during the ongoing development of national forest programme, whose principles include recognition of customary rights of indigenous people and forest dependent communities.
She confirmed that the national forest programme would be the future guide within the broader fields of forestry.
The CS praised the initiative for raising awareness among stakeholders on their roles and numerous opportunities in the sector noting that they will now be actively involved in planning and decision making.
The forum attracted participation of the World Bank, United Nations development programme, civil society and the national assembly. It was attended by among others senator Kipchumba Murkomen, vice-chairman parliamentary committee on environment, water and natural resources Reginald Wanyonyi, Uasin Gishu governor Jackson Madago and other regional county leaders.
Other communities that were represented were the maasai, Yaaku, Samburu, somali and kaya.
PHOTO Credit: Forest Peoples Programme