in Kenya

Indigenous peoples evicted and their homes set on fire: Embobut forest, Kenya

Kenya Forest Service guards are evicting Sengwer indigenous people from their homes in the Embobut forest in Kenya. The guards have burned people’s homes and set fire to their possessions.

Forest Peoples Programme has been monitoring the situation in Kenya closely and points out that the evictions are illegal:

By carrying out these evictions and burnings, the Kenyan government is completely ignoring the orders of its own courts, its Constitution, and its international legal commitments. It is acting as though it is above the law.

In March 2013, Eldoret High Court issued an interim injunction forbidding the KFS guards and the police from evicting the Sengwer. In November 2013, the injunction was renewed. On 18 January 2014, the Judge at Eldoret High Court issued orders for the police to arrest anyone breaching the injunction.

The police are ignoring this order. Forest Peoples Programme reports that this week, the paramilitary Administrative Police moved in to evict anyone remaining in the Embobut forest.

FPP has set up an Avaaz petition against the evictions, and you can help support the indigenous Sengwer’s legal battle here. Funds are needed urgently for the legal effort to stop the evictions, and to ensure that Sengwer families can safely return to their homes in the forest.

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Forest Peoples Programme has been in Kenya speaking to the people evicted from Embobut and documenting the evictions. One woman had to flee her house with her four children. She said,

“All school uniforms, cooking pans, water containers, cups were burnt. Now the children have to stay home while I find uniform and books. The children are very upset because we have lost everything. The children and elderly people will end up getting pneumonia because we don’t have anything to cover ourselves at night.
“In October I went to the market place and heard there was a plan to give out money. I did not want to get money to leave. I was not offered money to leave. There was no consultation.”

A 19 year-old man told Forest Peoples Programme,

“This is my fathers house, burnt at 8.30am yesterday [15th January]. Blankets, utensils, were burnt. My father and Mother and 6 children live here (aged from 8 to 19). It is like psychological torture for the children, and their schooling is really disrupted.

“We were not consulted. I heard about it from the chief in October in the market at Tangul. He said names are being listed so I was told to write my name, so I wrote my name and my name did not appear in the list. I do not want the money, I want to stay up here in Embobut because where you are born and where you go outside there it is not the same.”

Forest Peoples Programme has produced a detailed timeline of events leading to the evictions. Here are some of the key events:

  • The Sengwer indigenous people’s ancestral lands are in the Rift Valley province in Western Kenya in and around the Cherangany Hills, including the Embobut forest. Dispossession and encroachment of the Sengwer’s lands took place under British colonial rule, and has continued since independence.
  • In 1964, much of the Cherangany Hills were gazetted as a national forest reserve. A series of Kenyan laws (1975 Wildlife Policy, 1976 Wildlife Act, 2005 Forest Act) makes the way of life of the Sengwer in the Cherangany Hills illegal, despite their ancestral claims to the land.
  • Enter the World Bank. In 2007, the World Bank-funded Natural Resources Management Project started in the Cherangany Hills. Since 2007, the Kenya Forest Service has attempted to evict Sengwer communities every year (except 2012), burning Sengwer houses and possessions.
  • Kenya’s 2010 Constitution establishes community ownership of ancestral lands. Under the Constitution, the Sengwer have firm rights to their ancestral lands.
  • In January 2013, members of the Sengwer community made a formal complaint to the World Bank’s inspection panel. The inspection panel’s investigation is currently being carried out.
  • In August 2013, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination wrote to Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the UN about the burning of Sengwer homes in the Embobut forest area, which have “negatively affected the health, livelihood and culture of the Sengwer people as well as their children’s education”.
  • In November 2013, Kenya’s President visited Embobut and promised 400,000 Kenyan shillings per family to move. As Forest Peoples Programme notes, ” At no stage have the Sengwer been meaningfully consulted in relation to resettlement, nor has their free, prior and informed consent been sought and obtained.”


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  1. I’m one member of community of Sengwer en i cry so much for being branded a squatter in a God given land. I thought the 400k given to some of us where compansation of past subsiquent eviction. gorverment failed to deferanciate between forest dwellers en forest encroachers worse of all chase pple inhumanly from there homes they av known for centuries, as no body as applied wherer to be born in the whole world.

  2. I personally don’t know clearly the area as haven’t been there. But what I know KFS people are responsible to protect important areas like catchment areas and other sensitive areas prone to erosion and other depredations for the betterment of the future generations. Regarding to that Sengwer community have to think on that although they have been living there for many years. This is like you cant resist to evacuate from a place for the only basis that you have been living there for so many years while the place is prone to floods or the soil of that particular place contains minerals that cause a certain disease to the community living around the area