Kenya: Indigenous Ogiek face eviction from their ancestral forest… again

first_imgThe Ogiek, traditional hunter-gatherers, have been subject to violent evictions from their ancestral homeland in the Mau Forest Complex of western Kenya since the beginning of British colonial rule.The Kenyan government says the evictions are necessary to protect the Mau Forest Complex, an important water catchment.In 2017, after more than 20 years of legal wrangling, the Ogiek won a landmark victory when an international court ruled that the Kenyan government had violated the Ogiek’s right to their ancestral land by evicting them.However, there are signs that the Kenyan government may be backing down from its pledge to abide by the court’s decision. Activists are warning of “an imminent plan” by the government to evict Ogiek from parts of the forest. NAKURU COUNTY, Kenya — Caroline Chepkoeh looked around her idyllic property, perched on a hilltop surrounded by green maize fields as far as the eye can see. A storm front was approaching from the north and the wind swayed the corn stalks and trees alike. The 34-year-old mother of three was bundled up in her winter coat. It’s colder here, she said, and it’s too far to school. Her two youngest children haven’t started nursery school yet because of the distance. “I still have hope that we will return to our land,” she said.Her hope is in the hands of a judge at the High Court of Kenya in Nakuru county, in the highlands of southwestern Kenya. The judge will determine whether Chepkoeh and her family were illegally evicted from their home on the edge of the Mau Forest Complex, the largest montane forest in East Africa. This situation is not uncommon in Chepkoeh’s community; she is an Ogiek, an indigenous group whose members have experienced a dizzying number of evictions from their ancestral homeland in the Mau Forest since the beginning of British colonial rule.Caroline Chepkoeh, 34, an Ogiek mother of three, outside of her home near the Mau Forest Complex in western Kenya. Image by Nathan Siegel for Mongabay.Chepkoeh said she will never forget the most recent eviction. One morning in March, 2016,around 8 a.m., a group of uniformed police officers arrived on her property unannounced, armed with guns. By her account, the police started looting her property and beating her dogs, then doused the houses in gasoline and burned them to the ground. The surrounding community of Isinget, home to some 70 Ogiek families, faced a similar fate. One person was killed during evictions that month and hundreds were made homeless, according to human rights groups. Chepkoeh and her family were fortunate to have another small plot of land in the area to which they could retreat. But they pray that it’s a temporary resettlement. “It was difficult to move to a new place and start from scratch,” she said.last_img

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