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Amnesty International on the Sengwer evictions in Kenya: “The allegations of house burnings are credible and require investigation by the competent authorities”

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Since December 2013, REDD-Monitor has been following the evictions of the Sengwer indigenous people who live in the Cherangany Hills. The evictions have been going on for many years, at the hands of armed Kenya Forest Service guards, who have evicted the Sengwer and burned down their homes.

In March 2015, a meeting took place in Eldoret, 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.

The Sengwer were one of the indigenous peoples represented at the meeting in Eldoret. But just before the meeting started, the Sengwer released a statement describing how the Kenya Forest Service had started a new wave evictions and had burned down more than 30 houses.

After the meeting, REDD-Monitor received an email from Anne Kaari, Head Corporate Communication at the Kenya Forest Service. “There are no evictions that have taken place in the recent past,” she wrote. She also sent a press statement by Dr Richard Lesiyampe, Principal Secretary at the Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, two newspaper clippings, and a report of a helicopter trip over the Embobut forest in early March 2015. You can read all of this, here.

On 3 June 2015, REDD-Monitor received this response from Amnesty International:

    The allegations of house burnings are credible and require investigation by the competent authorities

     
    Amnesty International, 3 June 2015
     
    An article entitled ‘Kenya Forest Service: “There are no evictions that have taken place in the recent past”’, on the website of REDD Monitor on 17 March 2015, includes a response by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, to an e-mail from REDD Monitor concerning the allegations by representatives of the Sengwer community that the Kenya Forestry Service is continuing to burn their houses in the Embobut Forest. It also includes a press release by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, and the minutes of a meeting of people who took part in a helicopter visit to the Embobut forest to look into the Sengwer allegations.

    Amnesty International took part in the helicopter visit. Amnesty does not share the view that the helicopter visit demonstrated the Sengwer community’s allegations to be unfounded, as the Ministry’s e-mail claims.

    There was an agreement in advance that each helicopter group would include a Sengwer guide who would guide the pilot to sites of house burnings, and the helicopter would land to enable a closer examination, and where possible, interviews with the victims. Despite this agreement only one of the three groups landed. Only two groups included a Sengwer guide. Amnesty International’s researcher was in one of the helicopter groups that did not land. The pilot of this group ignored the Sengwer guide’s directions to sites of burnt houses. He also ignored repeated requests to land.

    The group that landed saw 3 houses that had been burnt, and interviewed the people to whom the houses belonged, who stated that the houses had been burnt by KFS guards.

    Amnesty International and Forest Peoples Programme researchers spoke to a number of Sengwer representatives and visited the forest on foot after the colloquium. In the view of the two organisations, the allegations of house burnings are credible and require investigation by the competent authorities.

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