Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program (OPDP) and Minority Rights Group International’s (MRG) strategic partners convened in Naivasha on 25-26 November, 2017 to deliberate on MRG findings on strategic litigation.
The meeting brought together partners from East and West Africa including Kenya, Tanzania and Niger.
Ms Valerie Coullard, consulting for MRG in the research shared the findings on Impact of 15 Years of Strategic Litigation and Legal Empowerment in East Africa with a scope to Ogiek and Endorois (Kenya) and Tanzania’s Maasai.
MRG has offered legal support to the three communities in the past 15 years in their quest for rights related to property, natural resources, development, culture and religion.
The study focused on community legal empowerment and social impact; impact on the national legal system and material consequences of litigation.
Regarding community legal empowerment and social impact, Valerie said there was enhanced communities’ legal empowerment; understanding on access to justice and unity towards tackling their protracted struggles.
“As a result of legal and human rights activities and litigation, there was a certain degree of positive change in attitudes and behaviours in other parts of society including neighbouring communities, local authorities and the media,” she said.
The study found gaps in domestication of international laws on Indigenous Peoples (IPs) in Kenya and Tanzania thereby challenging their access to justice.
However on material consequences of litigation, the study found the impact to be minimal for all the three indigenous communities in Kenya and Tanzania-the Ogiek, Endorois and Maasai.
Ms Christine Kandie from Endorois Welfare Council said decision by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights had not be fully implemented by the Kenyan government.
“The Endorois still live on the edges of their ancestral land having not been restituted their land,” she said.
In 2010 the African Commission faulted the Kenyan government for failing to recognise and protect Endorois’ ancestral land rights; provide sufficient compensation or alternative grazing land following their eviction from in and around Lake Bogoria or to grant restitution of their land. Also for failure to involve the community in development processes.
It thereby recommended that the Kenyan government recognise rights of ownership to the Endorois and restitute Endorois ancestral land; ensure Endorois has unrestricted access to Lake Bogoria and surrounding sites for religious and cultural rites and for grazing their cattle and pay adequate compensation to the community for all the loss suffered among others.
A representative from Timidria,a NGO for human rights in Niger, said although the West African country has an anti-slavery law,the crime is still rampant with the women and children being the most vulnerable.
“Slaves in Niger are used to farm crops for their masters and are denied many rights including rights of free movement, right to own property, right to education among others,” he said.
He said Timidria has a team of laywers and paralegals advocating for end of slavely in Niger.They are also actively engaged in sensitizing stakeholders of the human indignity of the trading in people and calling for development of stricter policies protecting the rights of Niger’s citizens.
Mr John Samorai, OPDP’s Program Officer said Ogiek’s struggle for land rights backdates to pre-colonial era when evictions from Mau Forest Complex began.
“The Ogiek struggle for land rights is a protracted struggle since the colonial time when land dispossession started” John said.
“The struggle climaxed in October 2009 when the government through the Kenya Forest Service, issued a 30-day eviction notice for all the Ogiek in Eastern Mau,” he added.