in Kenya

UN experts call on Kenya to “halt the evictions of the Sengwer community”, and urge the European Union to suspend funding for climate project

Three independent experts appointed by the UN have expressed concern about the recent evictions of the indigenous Sengwer from their homes in the Embobut Forest, in the Cherengany Hills, Kenya. The experts are John H. Knox, Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.

On 29 December 2017, more than 100 Kenya Forest Service guards entered the Sengwer communitiy’s lands. They fired gunshots, burned at least 15 homes, and killed livestock.

On 9 January 2018, Kenya Forest Service guards shot at a Sengwer leader. He was unhurt, but the guards burned down his house.

Evictions a result of a European Union climate change project

A statement on the website Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) states that the evictions and attacks are “as a result of the implementation of the Water Towers Protection and Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation project, an EU-funded water management project”.

The European Union and the Kenyan Government announced the €31 million project in June 2016. Four months later, the Sengwer wrote to the EU, requesting the programme be suspended until a rights-based approach is incorporated.

The Special Rapporteurs comment that,

“The Sengwer are facing repeated attacks and forced evictions by agents of the Kenya Forest Service, which is an implementing agency in the project financed by the European Union.

“We are concerned that the project is being undertaken without a human rights impact assessment. Consultations have not been held with the Sengwer to seek their free, prior and informed consent.

“We call on the Kenyan authorities to urgently halt the evictions of the Sengwer community and undertake impartial investigations of these attacks. Furthermore, we urge the European Union to suspend funding for the project until measures have been taken to uphold international standards on indigenous peoples’ rights.”

But during a meeting last week in Eldoret, a town south of the Cherengany Hills, Hubert Perr, the EU Delegation Head of Cooperation, said that,

“For us from the European Union, I think suspension would really be a matter of last resort. Because ultimately nobody would win if we take this kind of action.”

Amnesty International’s Urgent Action

Meanwhile, Amnesty International has put out an Urgent Action asking people to write to the Director of the Kenya Forest Service, the Environment Cabinet Secretary, with copies to the Ambassador of the European Union Delegation to Kenya. The letters should urge the Kenyan authorities to:

  • Immediately order the cessation of forced evictions in Embobut forest;
  • Ensure that all those affected by the forced evictions are allowed to return to their lands and no further retaliation happens to Sengwer activists;
  • Urgently follow up and facilitate an independent investigation into the ongoing forced evictions.

Here is the Amnesty International Urgent Action:

Urgent Action: Indigenous community forcibly evicted

Kenyan authorities are forcibly evicting the Sengwer Indigenous community from their ancestral home, the Embobut forest. The evictions have been carried out by the authorities in violation of the Constitution, a High Court injunction and international human rights law, through a conservation project funded by the European Union.

Since 29 December 2017, the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) operating under the authority of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources has been carrying out forced evictions of members of the Sengwer Indigenous community in Embobut forest, Cherengany Hills Complex in the western highlands of Kenya. The forced evictions are being carried out despite a High Court injunction that forbids the eviction or arrest of Sengwer residents in the forest. The forced evictions violate the human rights of the Sengwer, including their right to housing and to their ancestral lands, under international law, African Union (AU) human rights standards, and the Constitution of Kenya.

According to reports from affected community members and national and international media outlets, around 100 armed KFS guards are present in the forest who have burnt at least 50 huts and fired shots into the air. On 9 January, guards reportedly fired, without hitting, shots at Paul Kiptoga, one of the community elders, as he was making his way to a meeting about the evictions with government officials. Thus far, the community has received only limited support from media, civil society, and the judiciary due to the forced evictions being executed during holiday seasons and therefore not attracting international attention.

The Embobut Forest is part of an area included in a conservation programme financed by the European Development Fund of the European Union (EU). The EU has a duty to mitigate risks of such human rights violations being perpetrated by carrying out robust human rights due diligence processes.

On 10 January Sengwer community leaders and Amnesty International secured a public commitment from the Government of Kenya for an independent investigation into the forced evictions and community dialogue with all stakeholders. However, despite a commitment by the Sengwer leaders to conserve the forest, the government declined to announce an end to forced evictions and harassment by KFS. The community remains at risk.

Please write immediately in English, Swahili or your own language urging the Kenyan authorities to:

  • Immediately order the cessation of forced evictions in Embobut forest;
  • Ensure that all those affected by the forced evictions are allowed to return to their lands and no further retaliation happens to Sengwer activists;
  • Urgently follow up and facilitate an independent investigation into the ongoing forced evictions.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 23 FEBRUARY 2018 TO:

Director of the Kenya Forest Service
Emilio N. Mugo
Kenya Forest Service Director’s Office
P.O Box 30513-00100 Nairobi Kenya

Email: director@kenyaforestservice.org
Salutation: Dear Sir

Cabinet Secretary
H.E. Prof. Judi Wakhungu
Ministry of Environment, and Natural Resources
NHIF Building,12th Floor,
Ragati Road, Upperhill
P.O BOX 30126-00100 Nairobi, Kenya

Email: cs@environment.go.ke
Salutation: Dear Cabinet Secretary

And copies to:

Ambassador of the European Union Delegation to Kenya
H.E. Ambassador Stefano Dejak
Union House, Ragati Road
P O Box 45119 00100 Nairobi, Kenya

Email: stefano.dejak@eeas.europa.eu

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country.

 

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