Thursday, February 02, 2012

Kenya continues to drag its feet in recognising indigenous peoples’ ownership of Wildlife Park

By Ochieng’ Ogodo

[NAIROBI] The Kenya government has been accused of lack of commitment to ensuring justice for the Endorois people and has been urged to immediately restore ownership to the community of their ancestral lands around the Lake Bogoria National Reserve.
The Minority Rights Group International (MRG) said the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) recognized indigenous people’s rights over traditional occupied lands and to be involved in benefits from any development affecting this land but this was not the case with the Endorois.
“The Endorois still have no land title, have received no compensation for the loss they suffered during almost 40 years, nor a significant share in tourism revenue from their land,” MRG said in press statement on Feb 1.
“Two years on from the African Commission’s ruling the Endorois are still waiting for justice to be brought home. The government’s lack of engagement with the community is of extreme concern and, inevitably, it raises questions about their commitment to the high ideals to be found in Kenya’s new Constitution,’ says Carla Clarke, MRG’s Head of Law.
In an attempt to pressure the government and highlight their continued situation, the Endorois have repeatedly raised their case with the African Commission and the United Nations. However, attempts to engage with the government have failed to illicit even one meeting between the community, its representatives and government officials.
They said Kenya adopted a new Constitution in August 2010, which, together with a new National Land Policy, supported the Commission’s decision in recognising indigenous peoples’ ancestral lands.
‘In view of Kenya’s new Constitution, which provides for the establishment of a National Land Commission to review past abuses and recommend appropriate redress, it is particularly important that the government implements the Commission’s decision without further delay,’ added Clarke.
Endorois land was originally appropriated by the Kenyan government in the 1970s to create the Lake Bogoria National Reserve. On February 2, 2010, the African Union adopted a decision of the ACHPR which declared firstly that the expulsion of Endorois from their lands was illegal, and that the Kenyan government had violated certain fundamental rights of the community protected under the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and other international instruments.
The semi-nomadic indigenous Endorois community of approximately 60,000 people, who for centuries have earned their livelihoods from herding cattle and goats in the Lake Bogoria area of Kenya’s Rift Valley.
But the flocking of tourists to Lake Bogoria, renowned for its flamingos and geysers, has little idea of the high cost the Endorois paid for their eviction. Most people in this community still live in debilitating poverty, have little or no electricity and walk miles to collect water in drought stricken an area. They often dependent on relief food.
Because of wildlife reserve, the Endorois have been unable to gather the plants they once relied on for medicinal purposes, conduct religious ceremonies at their sacred sites or visit the graves of their ancestors.

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