Evictions have started of Sengwer indigenous people and other communities from the Embobut Forest in Western Kenya. Armed guards from the Kenya Forest Service have moved into the area to evict people, despite an injunction preventing evictions from the forest.
Forest Peoples Programme put out an urgent appeal against the evictions in December 2013. FPP has now set up an Avaaz Petition and is raising money for the indigenous peoples’ legal battle against the evictions.
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The evictions are not part of a REDD project, but they are part of a World Bank-funded Natural Resource Management Project. Justin Kenrick of the Forest Peoples’ Programme told The Ecologist magazine,
“The project has failed to do what was intended – to regularise community tenure. As a result of this failure and through a programme of forced evictions, both the World Bank and the Kenyan Government are in flagrant violation of the Bank’s safeguard policies on Indigenous Peoples, Forests and Involuntary Resettlement.
“This means that not only should the loan to the Government of Kenya be suspended, but all payments already released to the Government of Kenya should be returned to the Bank.”
Earlier this week, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, urged the Kenyan Government to respect the human rights of the Sengwer indigenous people. He quoted from the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:
“Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly relocated from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement of fair and just compensation and, where possible, the option of return.”
Forest Peoples Programme posted the following news on the Avaaz website:
Latest news from the ground:
“With the arrival of forest guards, families are running away from their homes. 12 guards all armed with AK 47 and G3 assault rifles were getting into peoples’ houses. Homes are deserted. The guards shot one bullet in the air before getting into the forest. Lots of confusion, fear, desperation and hopelessness is seen amongst community members. One of the guards was telling fleeing families: ‘Get out of the forest’.” We heard yesterday that forest guards are now burning deserted Sengwer houses.
For many years the Kenyan Government has been trying to move the indigenous Sengwer inhabitants of Embobut off their ancestral land by burning their homes and food stores. They have done this in the name of a fortress conservation approach which seeks to remove local people from their lands, and which makes the environmental situation worse while creating a human rights crisis.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, James Anaya, yesterday urged the Government of Kenya “to ensure that the human rights of the Sengwer indigenous people are fully respected, in strict compliance with international standards protecting the rights of indigenous peoples. Any removal of Sengwer people from their traditional lands should not take place without adequate consultations and agreement with them, under just terms that are fully protective of their rights”, Mr. Anaya stressed.
We appeal to the Government and Parliament of Kenya and to all responsible for guarding and securing the fundamental rights of such communities, to stop this forced eviction of the indigenous communities and other people at Embobut, which violates their human rights as protected by the constitution and international law.
According to the 2010 Kenya Constitution (Article 63) and international law, the indigenous Sengwer have the right to not be moved from their ancestral territories unless they have given their free, prior and informed consent.
These evictions are also in contempt of an interim injunction secured in the High Court in March 2013, and renewed on November 21st 2013, which makes the forced eviction of Sengwer homes a criminal offense.