By: Lynester Mureu 01/03/2018
Indigenous people are groups of persons that remain confined to their traditional cultures that existed in the pre-colonial era so that even after the process of decolonization, they have still remained reluctant to embrace the western culture and/or ideology. In Kenya, most of the Indigenous persons can be found in forested areas as many indigenous persons are hunters and gatherers and rely on the forests and its vicinity for their livelihood.Through the years, proper mechanisms have been put in place to ensure the forest dwellers and their activities do not contravene forest and environmental conservation efforts.
However, with growing populations, growing economic needs and pressures and lack of follow up by law enforcement officers has led to encroachment of areas that were not designated for activities such as logging, large scale farming among others.
This has led to tension between the forest dwellers and law enforcement agencies as they try to manage activities not allowed within the process. Forceful eviction that ensue leave residents homeless as their houses are destroyed in the forest conservation efforts, some ‘ residents’ have been injured and in recent times loss of life as evictions took root.
KNCHR has over the years engaged itself in matters touching on indigenous persons and in recent times specifically the Sengwer community who largely reside in Embobut Forest, Elgeyo Marakwet County. This has been occasioned by numerous reports by residents in that area owing to strained relations with law enforcement officers.
In this respect, the Commission has conducted various investigative missions and held consultative meetings with stakeholders such as security and law enforcers to ensure forest conservation efforts do not infringe on human rights and more so of indigenous persons who already suffer marginalization.
The Commission paid a courtesy call to the newly appointed Cabinet Secretary (CS) For Environment and Forestry to appraise him on the happenings in Embobut which had left one person killed and another one detained in eviction efforts.The CS was responsive to the Commission and the efforts it has taken in securing human rights for all but urged caution while giving ear to the forest dwellers as it is possible that impersonators may have infiltrated the area and are not genuine forest dwellers. He assured KNCHR of the full support of his office and where required critical updates be shared with his office for urgent interventions.