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CSOs stand up against Sengwer community Evictions and Attacks on HRDs

Civil Society Organisations stand in solidarity with the Sengwer Community after the government warned of continued evictions

The civil society comprised of human rights and conservation organizations once again call on the Kenyan government to end forced evictions in Embobut Forest and ensure that human rights are respected, protected and fulfilled.

Yesterday the official government spokesperson Eric Kiraithe, publicly announced that the government will launch a probe into the shooting and killing of Robert Kiprotich and serious injuring of David Kipkosgei. It was officially communicated that any officer who will be found culpable of the murder of Robert Kiprotich will be held liable.

The government’s commitment to end the ongoing forced evections in Embobut Forest has been publicly contradicted by Marakwet East Deputy County Commissioner (DCC) Stephen Sangolo. The DCC informed the press that the operation of forcibly evicting Sengwer community members in Embobut Forest must continue.

As human rights and conservation organizations, we are deeply concerned about the mixed messaging by the government. Sangolo’s remarks come at a time when the Sengwer community is still coming to terms with the loss of one of their own, injury of another and displacement from their homes. The remarks further threaten the early resumption of the suspended Ksh. 3.6 billion funding to the Water Towers Protection and Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Programme.

We urge the inter-ministerial committee set up by the Kenyan Government to use this time to reflect and adopt a new approach to conservation, sustainable development and human rights to the ancestral land of the Sengwer indigenous people and others in Kenya. We also call on the government to put in place human rights frameworks that enable genuine consultation with the affected persons.

As we have said repeatedly, forced evictions violates 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.

Consequently we call on the government of Kenya to immediately;

  1. Publicly communicate an immediate halt to the Embobut evictions.
  2. Institute the probe promised and communicate publicly the outcome of the probe within seven days.
  3. Ensures consistency in their messaging to foster public confidence in their commitment to resolve the conflict.
  4. Ensure that all those affected by the forced evictions are allowed to return to their lands and no further retaliation happens to Sengwer leaders and community.
  5. Put in place human rights frameworks that enable genuine consultation with the affected persons.

PRESS STATEMENT ON THE ENFORCED EVICTION OF THE SENGWER COMMUNITY

Collective Statement on Sengwer killing (1)

Call to respond to the threats to the Sengwer

The Sengwer Community Members after the Press conference

  1. What is happening?

On Monday evening on the 25th of December 2017 our marginalized community, the Sengwer forest Indigenous Peoples of Embobut forest, received a Christmas present that no one should have to receive.

Over 100 armed Kenya Forest Guards (KFS) were deployed to Tangul KFS camp in Embobut forest. They brought great fear to our community:

– fear that once more our homes and possessions would be burned,

– fear that we would be forced off our ancestral lands and

– fear that members of our community would be harassed and arrested.

On 29th December KFS guards started to forcefully and unlawfully evict us from our ancestral lands in Kapkok, Koropkwen and Kaptirpai glades in Embobut forest:

– they have been going house to house searching for community members and leaders,

– they use live bullets to scare people,

– they have been burning our homes and possessions, and

– they have arrested people and even took a 6-year old boy from his family, later releasing him in the forest far from home.

The fact that KFS chose to come at Christmas and operate at New Year shows that they are not acting in good faith. They are acting in a way to avoid scrutiny. They know the courts are closed at that time, that the media and politicians are on holiday then. They want to do damage when no one is there to see. Is this how state agencies act when they are acting according to the law?

We have a court case that should protects us. We secured an injunction against being evicted in March 2013 and yet have been evicted many times since. Those evicting us should follow the due process of the law not act outside the law. We are following up our issues with the rightful people – both the courts and the National Land Commission. Meanwhile, KFS and the Ministry are taking short cuts and acting maliciously. We will be asking the Clerk of the National Assembly and the Clerk of the Senate to make sure that Parliament investigate the actions of KFS and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. They need to obey the law.

This is nothing new for us. We have repeatedly experienced forced evictions at the hands of the KFS. Its wardens have regularly burned our homes, along with stores of food, blankets, school uniforms and books. Over the years they have made thousands of our people homeless in what at night can be a cold high land to have no home. Old people and others have died from cold and illness resulting from evictions. Community members have been continually harassed, including women being raped.

The Ministry and KFS continually claims that they are evicting squatters, while at the same time blocking visits by KNCHR, by Amnesty International and by other independent bodies, because they know full well that the truth is that these are our ancestral lands, and our rights to our ancestral lands are recognised in Article 63 of the Constitution.

  1. Why are they doing this?

They say it is because the high forests of Embobut and the Cherangany Hills are one of the 5 water towers of Kenya, that these forests need to be protected for the water in Kenya to flow.

We agree that our forests need to be protected, both because they are fundamental to our way of life, and because they regulate the flow of water to downstream communities. But we know that from bitter experience that when our community rights to our lands are not recognised then we cannot protect our forests and our lands. We have seen first the colonial government and then governments since independence allow the marginalisation of communities like ours:

– We expected our community rights to our lands to be recognised after independence from the British, instead the insecurity and evictions continued.

– We expected our rights to our lands to be recognised once the 2010 Constitution clearly stated (in Article 63.2.d.ii) that ‘lands traditionally occupied by hunter-gatherer communities’ such as ours are community lands. Instead the insecurity and evictions have continued.

The only way to secure these lands and protect these forests is to secure our community’s rights to our lands. Across the world where Indigenous Peoples’ collective rights to their forests is recognised their forests are far better protected than when armed guards are brought in from outside: armed guard and institutions who have no long term interest and care for these lands.

Even the World Bank acknowledged the same. In their plans for the Natural Resource Management Project (the NRMP) that started in 2007 they focused on the need to secure our community tenure. In 2011 they dropped that part of their work in the NRMP, and when we brought our complaints to the World Bank who were funding KFS actions from 2007 to 2013, the World Bank’s own Inspection Panel found in our favour. They acknowledged that they should not have been strengthening a body, KFS, that remains committed to forceful evictions.

After that the World Bank brought experts from across the world to Eldoret to explain in the 2015 Colloquium that securing ancestral communities rights was the best way to protect forests. But the Permanent Secretary at Environment didn’t listen, instead he insulted us for wanting to live in our forests. KFS didn’t listen, instead they sought for funding from the EU to fund the WaTER project in order to carry on the same failed and violent approach to forcefully taking our lands.

Many many many of our people were forced from our lands due to harassment, destruction and the poverty that results. But many, many of us remain and insist on returning to and caring for our ancestral lands.

The EU is in the process of funding the Water Tower project (WaTER) in our lands as well as at Mt Elgon. The approximately 3.1 billion Kenya shillings includes funding to a KFS whose actions run completely counter to our human rights as recognised both under the constitution and in international law. We complained to the EU that our rights were being violated. They sent a EU Human Rights team in March 2017, and immediately after that one of our community members was shot at and badly wounded as he sought to document the evictions and burning of our homes that were carried by KFS guards between 31st March – 2nd April 2017.

And now this.

At Christmas.

Over New Year.

When eyes aren’t watching.

  1. What needs to happen now?

Well we hope eyes are watching now.

We hope ears are hearing now.

We call on Parliament to investigate and act to stop the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and KFS trampling on our right to live peacefully in our ancestral lands, and to live in a way that protects our forests.

“We want assurance from UNDP that they will modify project document to ensure that evictions are not going to happen under UNDP REDD + funding in Kenya?

We call upon Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources to implement 2014 World Bank Inspection Panel recommendation on dialogue process that will promote conservation while protecting our rights to live in our ancestral lands sustainably on conservation conditions.

We call on the EU to stop their WaTER tower project, a project that they should have realised long ago is causing harm. They certainly should have realised this after the KFS reaction to the EU human rights visit. Who else would respond to a human rights visit

– by threatening,

– by shooting at community members,

– by causing severe injuries to a community member who was seeking to record these human rights violations?

And now KFS are going house to house searching for that very community member who they shot at and badly wounded. Their response is never to enter dialogue and find a solution that protects the forests and the community. They have never given any evidence they care about either, but consistently demonstrate that they believe in seeking to conceal and destroy any evidence of their activities. Activities that amount to nothing less than an attempted land grab from the poor by the powerful. Something which Kenyans know all too well has happened throughout our history.

Just because it has happened before does not mean it should happen now.

Just because thieves operate under cover of darkness does not mean that their actions will not be seen for what they are in the light of day.

We ask our press, our Parliament and our people to shed light on what is happening and to insist on the rule of law, to insist that colonial attitudes need to end.

It is a new year, let’s make it one of hope.

 https://www.dropbox.com/s/h3jlidc5rlgq34a/Sengwer%20FPP%20Documentary%20file%20Nov%202017.mp4?dl=0

REMEDYING RISKS FOR ELECTION MONITORS, HRDs AND JOURNALISTS

Election Monitoring Report (3)

NCHRD-K PRESS STATEMENT ON SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS AND JOURNALISTS DURING THE 26 OCTOBER ELECTIONS

NCHRD-K-Statement-on-October-26-Elections

CALL FOR NOMINATION; HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS AWARDS 2017

THE HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS AWARDS 2017

INTRODUCTION

Civic space in Kenya continues to be under pressure with a range of actions employed against the work of Human Rights Defenders and Civil Society organizations in Kenya. Administrative action, legislative restrictions, negative rhetoric and limitation of human rights have undermined the Constitutional and international protections available to them hindering the realization of human rights and especially in the setting of an electoral period during the 2017 elections

It is against this backdrop that the Working Group on Human Rights Defenders in Kenya, that comprise of CSOs and development partners in Kenya, concerned with the protection of human rights defenders hold the 2017 Human Rights Defenders Awards. The HRD awards endeavour to publicly recognise the work of HRDs in Kenya through a HRD award ceremony. This will take place on 29th November 2017 – International Women Human Rights Defenders Day. There will be awards in three categories: The Munir Mazrui Lifetime Achievement Award, the HRD of the year award and the award for young and upcoming HRDs.

THE OBJECTIVES

The objectives of this award is to:

  1. Honour the extra ordinary work of HRDs in the promotion and protection of human rights, profiling the work of HRDs and challenges they face as agents of social change and transformation.
  2. Enhance the safety and protection of all HRDs in Kenya
  3. Recognise and appreciate the human rights work of young and upcoming HRDs in Kenya and support talent.

SELECTION PROCESS

  • Nomination: The Working Group on Human Rights Defenders in Kenya will develop a call for nominations which will be widely circulated by NCHRD-K and other partners. This call will outline the criteria for eligibility for nomination.
  • Shortlisting: A panel will shortlist ten individuals within the set out guidelines for shortlisting candidates.
  • Verification: The panel will then verify the HRDs human rights work through a field visits and interviews with those who work with the HRDs.
  • Judging: The judging panel, which will comprise eminent individuals in the human rights sector, will make a final decision, from the names submitted, who the recipient of the awards will be.
  • Award ceremony: will be held on the 29th November 2017 (International Women HRD Day) and will see the presence of representatives from the missions, CSOs, government, select HRDs and the media who will cover the event.

SELECTION CRITERIA

The following will be taken into consideration:

  • Grassroots based HRD
  • Demonstrable impact of the HRDs human rights work to the community
  • The role of the HRD in promoting human rights
  • ‘Civil courage’ of the HRD in his/her human rights work
  • Demonstrated leadership, innovation and creativity in his/her human rights work
  • Contribution to development of a human rights based approach within his/her county in regards to the thematic area of focus
  • Future goals and likely impact
  • Degree of difficulty of the achievement and sacrifices made
  • Visibility derived from award to enhance work of HRD to promote human rights and active citizenship
  • The HRD should have a link to the community and his/her work should have built or working towards building a movement.
  • The HRD should be a seasoned or upcoming in the human rights field.

AWARD

Three awards will be presented to the overall winners, Munir Mazrui lifetime achievement award, HRD of the year and an upcoming HRD.

Munir Mazrui lifetime achievement award winner will receive:

  • Cash award of $ 1,000
  • A plaque with the HRDs name on it
  • Will be the guest at the HRD award ceremony 2018

HRD award of the year winner will receive:

  • Cash reward of $1,000
  • A plaque with the HRDs name on it
  • Will be the guest at the HRD award ceremony 2018

The Upcoming HRD will receive:

  • Cash reward of $1,000
  • A plaque with the HRDs name on it
  • Will be the guest at the HRD award ceremony 2018

The NCHRD-K therefore calls for nominations for Human Rights Defenders Award 2017.

All nomination forms should be sent back to the NCHRD-K via advocacy@hrdcoalition.org with a clear subject line “HRD AWARD NOMINATION” by 27 October 2017 at 12.00 pm

Download the nomination Form here: HRD AWARDS 2017 NOMINATION FORM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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