Religious Leaders, Government Representatives, Staff, Members and Partners of the Ogiek People’s Development Program, Invited Guests, All Protocols Observed.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Good Afternoon.
I stand before you in my capacity as the Chairperson of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights. Allow me to briefly introduce the National Commission as a reflection of what we are celebrating today.
Kenya National Commission on Human Rights’ mandate is:
Kenya National Commission on Human Rights is therefore honoured to join you all in these celebrations. This day marks a historic day following the decision by the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) in recognising the Ogiek as an indigenous community in Kenya and granting them the rights to their ancestral land of Mau Forest.
As we all know, this has been a long journey, it took 8 years to fight this legal battle. Finally, the Court found that the Kenyan Government had violated Seven Articles of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights in land rights that dates back to colonial times. You agree with me, that journey wasn’t easy. It was messy, noisy and had casualties.
I quote Martin Luther King Junior when he stated “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” Indeed, victory comes to those who pursue it tirelessly.
I want to emphasize the Judgement of the Court that Ogiek, just like many other indigenous people in Africa, have a role to play when it comes to preservation of the local ecosystem, and in conserving and protecting land and natural resources, and in this case the Mau Forest, which is one of the significant water towers in our country.
I concur with Mr. Daniel Kobei, the Executive Director of Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program when he says “For the Ogiek, this is history in the making. The issue of Ogiek land rights has finally been heard and the case has empowered them to feel relevant. I know that the case also gives hope to other indigenous peoples; it has made the issues seem real,”
Ladies and Gentlemen;
Lands rights are human rights issues and this is why, this matter is at the centre of our work as the National Commission on Human Rights. The Commission is highly guided by the Bill of Rights and we respect all its provisions. We must therefore, be cautious of any violations of rights to life, property, development, religion and culture as enshrined within our Constitution. The Court’s Judgment confirmed that through a persistent denial of Ogiek’s land rights, their cultural, religious and associated cultural and hunter-gatherer practices were also violated. The Court was sending a clear message that Kenyan and other African Governments must respect indigenous peoples’ land rights in order to secure their livelihoods and cultures.
While as a Commission we had anticipated that this Judgement would mark an end to such impunity, we still continue to witness arbitrary forced evictions in Embobut Forest in Elgeyo Marakwet County, without proper structures on compensation on even prior consultations. Residents of these forests, have spiritual, emotional, cultural and economic attachment to the forests. They need it for food, shelter and identity. As a Commission we will continue working with the Government at both the national and county levels to fully respect the Court’s judgement and take necessary measures to offer remedy to violations experienced by the Ogiek community over decades.
To ensure implementation of the Judgment, the Government through the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, through Gazette Notice No. 167 appointed a Taskforce on 10th November 2017 to advise on how best to implement the Court judgment. The Taskforce was appointed for a period of 6 months and this period has since elapsed and the Taskforce term has not been extended.
The main objective of the Taskforce was to review the Judgment and advice on possible implementation and redress avenues in relation to the Ogieks’ use and occupation of the Mau forest. The Government of Kenya has a Constitutional obligation to comply with International law as enshrined in Article 2(5) of our Constitution in respect to general rules of international law.
The mandate of the Ogiek’s Taskforce was to:
Ladies and Gentlemen; the Commission therefore calls on the Government to renew the tenure of the Taskforce and have its term extended so that it undertakes the following:
As I conclude, I wish to state that the expectations of the Taskforce are well set out and their work is cut out. As the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights we urge the Kenyan Government to fully respect the Court’s judgement and take speedy measures to remedy the violations experienced by Ogiek Community over decades.
KNCHR emphasizes its commitment to uphold, protect and promote human rights for all Kenyans alike, including the Ogiek and other indigenous Communities.
The Commission will continue its monitoring work as far as the Ogiek and other indigenous communities’ rights are concerned. We will walk with you through all the steps and ultimate journey of realizing the enjoyment of your fundamental rights and freedoms.
I Thank You All.