The Ogiek community has called on the government to effect a landmark ruling by the African Court on Human and People’s Rights in Arusha, Tanzania on their eviction from Mau Forest.
The community led by its Council of Elders’ member, Daniel Goibei however, hailed the government for setting upa taskforce to implement the decision of the African Court on the Ogiek Community land rights in Mau Forest issued in May 2017.
In a petition to the task force chaired by Dr. Robert Kibugi, Goibei called on the government to cancel all title deeds issued within the 14 blocks of Mau Complex in the Counties of Nakuru, Narok, Kericho, Baringo, Uasin Gishu and Nandi.
“Over 4,500 households of Ogiek have been rendered destitute and landless within the 14 blocks. We want each block issued with an individual title deed to prevent future sale or subdivision of our ancestral land into smaller portions. This is the only way to preserve our culture and promote conservation efforts of the Mau complex,” said Goibei.
In its findings two years ago, the court said the Ogiek were not consulted on evictions from their ancestral lands in the Mau Forest.
After a five-year legal battle, the court ruled that the government had violated the community’s rights and freedoms and directed it to remedy all the violations.
The task force that held the session at Rift Valley Regional Commissioner’s Plenary Hall in Nakuru heard that the Ogieks were first kicked out of their traditional forest dwellings in 1927 and lack of a clearly defined land tenure had rendered the community landless.
“Through perennial evictions, forged land ownership documents and corruption the Ogieks have found themselves in conflict with the state leading to unnecessarily high number of civil and criminal litigations before court. We are keen to work with the government in amicably resolving the issue,” said the elder.
In the petition to the task force, the community is also demanding official recognition as a distinct and independent community to ward off criminal elements who have been exploiting Ogieks’ woes to obtain political and financial favours from donors and government officials.
They want a review of various land statutes enacted over 1930 to 1935 which they say have criminalized Ogiek culture and a review of logging licenses which they say threaten the existence of Mau Forest Complex.
The community is also petitioning for restitution of 21 forest blocks within Rift Valley to the community.
“Going henceforth, it is our desire that Ogieks be involved in payment of forest royalties and employment opportunities that arise as a result of commercial activities in the complex. All previous losses that have arisen as a consequence of past evictions should be indemnified by the state,” stated Mr.Goibei .
Dr. Kibugi said that members of the task force had visited the complex for a fact finding mission, adding that the government was keen to protect culture and land tenure rights of the Ogiek.
“We have received written memorandums and oral submissions. After a deep analysis and discussion with experts we will make our recommendations to the Cabinet Secretary of Environment KeriakoTobiko,” noted DrKibugi.
The task force will also study other judgments issued by the local courts in relation to the Ogieks’ occupation of the Mau Forest.
It will further recommend measures to provide redress to the claims of the community, which may include restitution to their original land or compensation with alternative land.
It is also mandated to look at the land related laws and policies to see how they can address the plight of the Ogieks community.
The team will later prepare interim and final report to be submitted to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Arusha Tanzania and examine the effects of the judgment on other similar cases in other areas in the country.
It will also conduct studies and public awareness on the rights of indigenous people and also get views of the members of the public and any interest groups alongside seeking expert advice from consultants.
By Anne Mwale