What you need to know:
- The African Court ordered the Kenyan government to recognise the Ogiek, one of the last surviving hunter-gatherers in Africa, as an indigenous tribe.
Arusha. The Kenyan government has started to demarcate land for the Ogiek community, who were earlier evicted from their ancestral land.
This followed a ruling by the African Court on Human and People’s Rights (AfCHPR) following an application filed by the minority group in 2009.
Ten months after the ruling by the Arusha-based legal facility, the Kenya government has prepared a reparation plan for the community.
These include returning them to the land in Mau Forest on which they were forced out and giving them title deeds to guarantee an uninterrupted stay.
The African Court ordered the Kenyan government to recognise the Ogiek, one of the last surviving hunter-gatherers in Africa, as an indigenous tribe.
Full recognition, according to the ruling, should also include the community’s language, culture, and religious beliefs.
The Court, a judicial organ of the African Union (AU), ruled that the Kenyan government should issue titles for ancestral land claimed by the Ogiek. The Kenyan government, through its National Land Commission (NLC), was also tasked with ascertaining the claims of historical injustices allegedly meted out to the community.
The government was found to have violated the rights to life, property, natural resources, culture, and religion through forceful eviction from the Mau Forest.
During its ruling in June last year, the Court awarded KSh. 157 million in material and moral damages to the Ogiek from the Kenyan government.
The regional court said the fact that the Ogiek were traditionally forest dwellers should not be an excuse to accuse them of being behind Mau Forest destruction.
“Hence, the government could not justify the evictions or denial of access to their land,” the Court ruled, noting that they should be allowed “back to their ancestral land.”
The Land Commission of Kenya says it will complete the preparation of land titles for the Ogiek community by August this year “before the land is returned to them as directed by the Court”.
The Ogiek are hunter-gatherers who live purely by hunting and gathering, while some do grow vegetables and keep livestock.
They have traditionally hunted such animals as antelope and wild pigs, but are now generally seen as illegal residents in the Mau Forest in the Rift Valley region.
Ever since colonial times, there have been attempts to evict the Ogiek from their ancestral forest, usually on the pretext that they are degrading it.
They have countless times challenged this, insisting that their eviction was meant to pave the way for large-scale logging by illegal settlers.