Over the past decade, Kenya Forest Service guards have repeatedly evicted people living in the Embobut Forest in the Cherangany Hills. On 25 February 2015, guards torched more than 30 houses belonging to the Sengwer indigenous people and destroyed school books, clothes and cooking utensils.
Today, a three-day-long meeting is planned to start, hosted by the World Bank and the Kenyan Government, aimed at discussing positive ways forward. The Sengwer, then, are supposed to sit down to talk with the government whose agencies burned their houses last week.
On 27 February 2015, the Sengwer wrote to the World Bank and the Government of Kenya asking them to stop the evictions or cancel the meeting. The Sengwer called for an urgent meeting with the meeting organisers to ensure that the harassment stops permanently before the talks begin.
The Sengwer have produced a statement on the current situation in Embobut. They also requested supporters to write to the World Bank and the Government of Kenya. REDD-Monitor’s email is below the statement from the Sengwer.
Sengwer statement on current situation at Embobut
- There have been ongoing evictions for many years, and each time we return to our ancestral lands. Since the most recent forceful evictions, which began in January 2014, we have continued to return to our lands.
- Other people who took advantage of the fact that our rights to our ancestral lands were not recognised and so moved into our lands in the last decades, were happy to take the November 2013 compensation and have not returned. We Sengwer never wanted to receive compensation for our lands, and were never consulted on this. Many of us received nothing, and those who did were told to take it because this was compensation for the harm caused by past evictions, and so they could take it and still stay.
- We have made very clear that we are not going to move from our ancestral lands, and that our only wish is to remain living peacefully on our lands and continuing to protect our forests. Although those higher up in the Ministry may believe that most of us have gone, in fact the vast majority of us remain on our lands, and will not leave despite the harassment and burning of our homes. We want to continue to have our homes in our 3 natural grassland glades (5,000 hectares) and to protect, maintain and restore our forests (17,000 hectares) with support, not harassment, from Government agencies.
- Despite the fact that at the Nakuru meeting (18-21 January 2015) the PS for Environment said that there would be “no more violations”, on the 25th February 2015 the burnings began again in earnest, with over 30 houses torched that day, and many belongings including school books, clothes and cooking utensils destroyed.
- We can only speculate that perhaps KFS staff on the ground have been told by their superiors they should have evicted everyone already and so have given the impression to their superiors that almost no one is left in Embobut, and so their superiors keep asking for yet another push to get rid of ‘the last people’ when they are told that people are still there. These pushes, these evictions, these harassments of women and children and families keep happening BECAUSE we are still here. We are not leaving, but we are very willing to stay and be helped to protect these lands and conserve and restore our forests.
- We are being asked to attend the 3-day Colloquium being called by the World Bank and the Government of Kenya in Eldoret, starting this Wednesday. How are forest dwelling communities such as ourselves supposed to sit down to chart a way forward with Government when at the same time our homes are being burnt and our families left homeless?
- We are willing to attend the Colloquium if the Government and the World Bank can guarantee that this burning, harassment and eviction has been stopped and will not resume. We have been told many time before that the evictions have stopped or even that they are not even taking place. We will not believe in the sincerity of the commitment that there will be no more burning of our homes and harassment of our people, unless Government agencies like KFS and its parent Ministry are able to take responsibility and acknowledge that these burnings and harassment have been happening.
From: Chris Lang
Date: 4 March 2015 at 10:48
Subject: Evictions of Sengwer people in Kenya
To: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Dear Dr. Jim Kim, Makhtar Diop, Edward Dumfour, Diarietou Gaye, H.E. Prof. Judi Wakhungu, Emilio Mugo, and Dr Richard Lesiyampe,
My name is Chris Lang and I run a website called REDD-Monitor (www.redd-monitor.org). I’ve been following the violent evictions of Sengwer indigenous people from their homes in the Cherangani Hills since December 2013 (http://redd-monitor.org/tag/sengwer/).
After years of evictions, the Sengwer welcomed the World Bank’s decision last year to help organise a Colloquium that “will provide an important opportunity for the voices of Cherangany-Sengwer peoples to be heard in a constructive setting.”
Given the importance of this Colloquium, I was surprised and shocked to hear that more evictions had taken place last week.
I would be grateful if you could answer the following questions:
1. Please explain what actions the World Bank and the Kenyan Government have carried out to address this situation since 25 February 2015, when this latest round of violent evictions started.
2. Did the organisers of the Colloquium agree to meet with the Sengwer, as they requested, to ensure that the harassment stops before the Colloquium starts?
3. How on earth did the Kenya Forest Service decide that yet more violent evictions were a reasonable course of action, particularly the week before the Colloquium?
4. In their statement about the current situation, the Sengwer ask, “How are forest dwelling communities such as ourselves supposed to sit down to chart a way forward with Government when at the same time our homes are being burnt and our families left homeless?” What is your response to this question?
5. Will the organisers of the Colloquium guarantee that there will be no more violent evictions and that the rights of the Sengwer will be respected?
Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you. Please consider your response to be on the record.
Regards, Chris Lang
PHOTO Credit: Connor Joseph Cavanagh, Aftermath of Sengwer Evictions, Embobut Forest, Kenya, November 2014.