Leaders of one of the world’s last forest tribes term the situation dire as families are thrown out of ancestral land.
The Kenyan government, in stark defiance of an African Court ruling, is continuing with forcibly displacing over 500 members of the Ogiek community in the Sassimwani area, Narok North, from the Maasai Mau Forest.
Despite two verdicts from the Arusha-based African Court in 2017 and 2022 that declared the government’s actions unlawful, evictions are ongoing against persons/tribes accused of encroaching on the crucial water tower, raising constitutional and human rights questions.
Expressing the harsh reality, Wilson Memusi, Chairman of the Ogiek Council of Elders, lamented the forceful eviction without notice, leaving the community without refuge.
“We do not have places to seek refuge,” Memusi said.
Daniel Kobei, Director of the Ogiek People Development Program (OPDP), recalled the direness of the situation, stating that the community, despite expecting protection from the Arusha ruling, finds itself helpless. “It is a state of helplessness for the Ogiek community.”
In the face of these events, the government’s actions directly contradict the 2017 ruling by the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The court deemed the Kenyan government in violation of seven articles of the African Charter, affirming the Ogiek’s rights to their ancestral land.
On June 23, 2022, the International Court further underscored the injustice, ordering the Kenyan government to compensate the Ogiek community with Sh157 million for material and moral damages, reinforcing their claim on the ancestral land in the Mau forest complex.
The disregard for court rulings raises concerns about the protection of indigenous rights, as the Ogiek community faces an alarming situation. Daniel Kobei emphasized this, saying, “When the government decided to violate and ignore it.”
The Ogiek community, now displaced, finds itself in a dire predicament, with Chairman Memusi highlighting the abruptness of the eviction. “We woke up to hundreds of officers who descended on our village and began demolishing houses.”