From 4-6 March 2015, a meeting took place in Eldoret, Kenya, organised by the World Bank and Kenya’s Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources. The meeting aimed to find a positive way forward following years of evictions from Kenya’s forested areas.
Since December 2013, REDD-Monitor has been following the plight of the Sengwer indigenous people who live in the Cherangany Hills. For many years, the Kenya Forest Services has evicted the Sengwer and burned down their homes. The Sengwer were one of the indigenous peoples represented at the meeting in Eldoret.
On its website, the World Bank notes that this three day event,
marks the first time that representatives of forest-dependent communities, government and civil society have come together to collectively address the complex issues besetting the forestry sector in Kenya.
But just before the meeting started, members of the Sengwer community put out a statement describing how the Kenya Forest Service had started a new wave evictions and had burned more than 30 houses. The Sengwer requested that supporters write to the World Bank about the evictions.
- The statement from the Sengwer and REDD-Monitor’s letter are available here.
- A report from a community task force to Embobut to investigate the recent evictions is available here.
- The World Bank’s response to REDD-Monitor’s email is available here.
- On 12 March 2015, REDD-Monitor received the following email from Anne Kaari, Head Corporate Communication at the Kenya Forest Service. Below that is a press statement from the Principal Secretary, Dr. Richard Lesiyampe, (also available here as pdf file) two scanned newspaper articles from 9 March 2015 (click on the images for larger versions), and the notes from a meeting held after a flight over the Embobut forest in a Kenya Forest Service helicopter on 5 March 2015.
Date: 12 March 2015 at 18:41
Subject: RE: Evictions of Sengwer people in Kenya
To: Chris Lang firstname.lastname@example.org
Cc: 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, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Sengwerindigenouspeoples@gmail.com
Dear Chris Lang,
Kenya Forest Service has received your email reference “Evictions of Sengwer people in Kenya.” You have raised a number of concerns and queries in your email, for which KFS would like to clarify several points. To start with, there are no evictions that have taken place in the recent past. During the Colloquium that took place last week in Eldoret, organized by the World Bank and Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, the same claims emerged. Immediately, a team was dispatched to undertake an aerial surveillance to ascertain the truth of these allegations. The team comprised of World Bank, Ministry and KFS officials and two media houses – KTN and K24 as well as leaders from the Sengwer Communities. The aerial surveillance confirmed that the claims were entirely false and no evictions and burning of homes as had been alleged had taken place with the exception of a few pockets of fire that had burned a few tree stumps as indicated. Being the dry and rainy season, forest fires have been ravaging some forests, however, it was evident that the few fires noted within Embobut forest had been lit purposely by arsonists with ill-intent and not through a Government operation. Investigations are ongoing to bring those culpable of this offence to book.
Kindly note that, the Kenya Forest Service is very keen to work with Communities through Community Forest Associations (CFAs) to ensure proper protection and management of forest resources for the benefit of all Kenyans. CFAs are legally registered and recognized entities that give community members a chance to be involved in sustainable forest conservation.
I have attached for your information, a press statement by the Principal Secretary, Dr. Richard Lesiyampe, presented on Friday 6th March 2015 during the closing session of the colloquium and scanned copies of newspaper articles that appeared in the Kenyan daily newspapers regarding the same matter. Minutes from the meeting held after the aerial surveillance that was conducted after the allegations emerged is also attached.
Lastly, I wish to kindly request that in future, you contact me or any other staff in Kenya Forest Service, whenever there are similar matters of concern, for clarification.
Head Corporate Communication
Kenya Forest Service
PRINCIPAL SECRETARY MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT, WATER AND NATURAL RESOURCES, STATE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES DR RICHARD LESIYAMPE, DURING THE CLOSING SESSION OF THE COLLOQUIUM ON DEEPENING DIALOGUE WITH STAKEHOLDERS IN THE FOREST SECTOR IN KENYA HELD ON 6TH MARCH 2015 AT BOMA INN, ELDORET
Ladies and Gentlemen, dating back to the period when forest reservation began way-back in the Year 1932, Forest -dependent communities have been marginalized. On record, successive Kenya Governments have evicted the communities from the forests on several occasions. Some of those evicted have now been settled but quite a number of them are still landless.
To solve the plight of the forest dependent communities, my Ministry hosted several delegations from the forest dependent communities. During this forum and it emerged that the forest dependent communities lacked elected leaders to represent their interest. My Ministry then facilitated elections of the leaders from ten (10) counties where marginalized forest dependent communities reside. The output of these elections was the formation of a structured leadership for the two communities which is a commendable milestone in this process of engagement. Since then, I have engaged the elected leaders with a view of understanding the issues that affect them in their respective counties resolved.
To get a better understanding of the issues raised by the communities, my Ministry organized a national forum on dialogue to address the various communities concerns.
During the national workshop, held in Nakuru in January 2015 a structure of engagement between the Government and the Ogiek and Sengwer communities was formalized. Other forest-dependent communities were invited and they were represented during the Nakuru workshop.
During the workshop, the leaders elected by the forest dependent communities were tasked to prepare memorandums per county which were presented and used to draw-up an implementation matrix. The matrix is now being applied to inform the development of the National Forest Programme. The key issues raised during the Nakuru workshop also formed the agenda for this International Colloquium. In summary, the main issues raised during Nakuru workshop include matters touching on; historical injustices, land tenure rights, compensation, recognition of forest dwellers, protection of traditional livelihoods, ensuring robust consultations, engagement in forest management, equitable access and benefit sharing of natural resources, and access to basic government services. Subsequent to these findings, the Ministry undertook to engage all forest-dependent communities and other stakeholders by hosting this International Colloquium.
I wish to inform all stakeholders that the main objectives of this International Colloquium were to:-
- Facilitate constructive dialogue and foster cooperation between key stakeholders in the forest sector in Kenya
- Share national and global experiences and best practices on the management of forest resources.
The outcomes from the colloquium will contribute towards sustainable forest development within the framework of the National Forest Programme, a process that my Ministry initiated late last year and which is scheduled to be concluded soon.
I now take cognizance of the participants and experts including: Legislators, Scientists, Governors, County Government Representatives, Members of Parliament; members of Independent Commissions namely , National Land Commission (NLC), Commission for Implementation of the Constitution (CIC), Commission for Revenue Allocation (CRA), National Human Rights Commission (NHRC); various International Partners, State Agencies, Development Partners, Civil Societies and Members of the Communities all of whom have participated effectively in the three day international colloquium held in this beautiful town of Eldoret.
The Government of Kenya through the Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources takes credit in hosting this colloquium, with facilitation from the World Bank. We highly appreciate, the involvement of other development partners including Government of Finland, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA), Center for International Forest Research (CIFOR), African Center for Technology (ACT), and Law Society of Kenya (LSK) in participating in the colloquium.
In addition, the colloquium benefited from the contribution of international experts through case studies and experiences from Tanzania, Ghana, Indonesia, China, Mexico among other countries. My observation is that all stakeholders have constructively engaged in an open and transparent dialogue resulting into key outputs that include:
- Exchange of knowledge and discussions that focused on conservation of forests as important natural resources vis a vis rights of forest -dependent communities.
- Review of tenure rights of communities to access forest goods and resources as well as importance of forest goods and services to the entire country.
- Deepened understanding and exchange of knowledge on forestry resources including roles and responsibilities of relevant agencies.
- Unbundled the devolved forestry services to County Governments.
- Discussed benefit sharing as envisaged in the natural resource benefit sharing bill which is currently in the 3rd reading in the Senate. Here I would like to appreciate Hon. Senator Agnes Zani for sparing her time to attend the colloquium and lead the discussion on the bill.
Let us all take cognizance that in the last two years, the Government and forest-dependent communities have regularly engaged in fruitful forums. This engagement has led to better understanding between the parties. However, it is unfortunate, that some people purporting to represent the communities are posting falsehoods using old images in social media platforms that houses belonging to the forest dependent communities were burned when the colloquium is in session. This is criminal and action will be taken on those who will be found responsible for propagating falsehoods.
Nevertheless, achievements have been made, and the Government commits itself to continue meaningful engagement with the Forest -dependent communities and other stakeholders for conservation of Kenya’s natural resources including the water towers.
Moving forward, the positive spirit and good will which have emerged will be continued with more determination and trust that promote open and constructive dialogue. However, issues raised in the colloquium are complex and some may require amendment of laws. Meanwhile, we shall continue to work within the existing policy, legal and institutional frameworks while contributing to the amendments of relevant policies and laws.
It is important that we manage community expectations because some of the issues raised here may take some time to be resolved. In addition, natural resource management should take consideration of the needs of the stakeholders who reside upstream, as well as downstream.
In-order for the communities to engage in the management of forest resources, it is expected that they work within the framework of existing legal structures, namely the Community Forest Associations (CFAs).
However, the issues which affect forest dwelling communities are beyond the forest sector, and therefore a wider engagement with other sectors and government agencies is very important.
Again, it is important for all to appreciate that forest resources spread across counties and that they shall be managed through ecosystem management approach by the National Government jointly with communities and stakeholders. In addition, the resources shall be managed to promote equity and prosperity for all communities. To ensure that equity is achieved, all gazetted forest resources within the water towers shall be managed by the State. This position is taken on the realization that water is a basic commodity that supports human security.
I would now wish to call upon all participants to support this process in moving forward.
OBSERVATION MADE IN EMBOBUT FOREST ON 5TH MARCH 2015
Three flights on Kenya Forest Service (KFS) helicopter was mounted to Embobut forest to have a general view and check on alleged 30 houses that were burned by Government Staff. The team flew and stopped on various spots. The team that flew comprised of:-
- Mr. Gideon Gathara – Conservation Secretary
- Mr. Emilio Mugo – Ag Director – Kenya Forest Service
- Paul K. Kipkorir – Sengwer Community member
- Paul Kitum – Sengwer Community elder
- Inspector Stephen M. Chessa – KFS – North Rift
- Chris Chapman – Amnesty International representative
- Pro. Naituli – Cohesion and Integration Commission
- Nicholas Soikan – World bank
- M/s Nagda Lovei – World bank
- Leaky Sonkoyo – KFS Hqs – Communication Section
- KTN – Reporter
- K24 – Reporter
Debriefing chaired by Mr. Gathara at Boma Inn Hotel at 7pm was held and observation was made as below by the team members who flew the area – (S.K. Mibey – HOC North Rift (KFS) was the secretary to the meeting).
- Chris Chapman started and stated that there should be a lot of people as there were cattle enclosures. He saw animals (Cows, sheep). Cattle enclosures were in fact showing there are people, he said. He complained that they did not stop.
- Professor Naituli indicated that there were no buildings.
- Paul Kitum stated that he directed the flight and the first scene was Sinen glade that had a lot of people not Sengwer and had their shambas outside. He said in Kewabus glade there were cattle seen. In Kabakasi glade, he noted was Sengwer area. He stated that he pointed the area that houses were burned. They proceeded to Kamologon at the border of Marakwet and West Pokot. He said they did not land and saw smoke for three tree stumps from a fire he hade reported to Zonal Forest Manager – Marakwet.
- Paul K. Kipkorir stated that at Kapkok or Kapkoros specifically they saw a lot of animals.
- Nicholas Soikan interjected that they went to all smoke areas and no house was burning. He said there were a lot of livestock and cow shed enclosures, which looked green meaning it was not inhabited as it would look grey if inhabited.
- Professor Naituli stated that there were no houses burning. The impression there is no forest but pockets of forest. He said the Government should come up with a rehabilitation program.
- Leakey Sonkoyo said forest was destroyed and no sign of people living but livestock. He stated that he was informed logs burning are to chase away hyenas and this was accepted by Paul K. Kipkorir.
- Nicholas Soikan stated that there are no undergrowths with low Biodiversity and overgrazing is evident. He said as they had stopped and engaged the community and that in Kapkok, cattle remain in the forest and makeshifts were noticed from where they stay.
- The Director Mr. Mugo gave a brief of past events and stated that last year there was a lot of farming (open cleared areas) with potatoes, onions etc, which are not there now. He said Embobut has glades and the people who lived there, 2800 were compensated after profiling. He stated that the Forest Act 2005 allows sheep and cattle to graze in the forest and not goats. However few goats were seen. He said in terms of animals the Government has taken time to remove as it would be a big blow to the people who could have bought small parcels of land and needed time to dispose the animals. He said they found out after various meetings he attended with leaders either in company of the Principal Secretary or himself that rich people from far keep a lot of cattle to fatten and sell. He said there were a lot of livestock seen. Although they say fire burnt on 25th February 2015 but people on the ground say it was 3rd March 2015 as meeting is going on at Boma Inn. He said Forest Rangers enforcing the law as there have been no burning since last year.
- Ms Nagda Lovei said the area is beautiful and is more like farm land. She neither said no structure was being nor even recently burning but logs were burning. She said there were animals seen and saw only one structure looking like a house.
- Mr. Gathara stated that they landed in 3 spots and talked to wananchi in one spot who say that they would be happy if given land that is near forest. He said they visited where one lady said her house got burned with her clothes and to him it was a makeshift. He said that no operation has been authorized by the ministry to the Director – KFS nor Director has authorized field staff. He said that observation from everyone is similar.
One member wanted the written statement of the incident alleged be investigated by police since nothing was witnessed.
The team was in agreement that a way forward be sort by having the Government Officials and members of community (Sengwer) have a meeting after adjourning the undergoing meeting.