Celebration of one-year anniversary of historic ruling over the Ogiek human rights was marked with calls to the Kenyan government to effectively implement the decision of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Dubbed ‘Ogiek Celebration Day,’ the anniversary was marked on May 26,2018 at Nessuit Primary School located in Njoro sub-county, Nakuru County; Kenya.
The Ogiek dressed in their traditional regalia were joined by other indigenous peoples and ethnic communities, lawyers who represented Ogiek in the case, human rights advocates across Africa, members of Kenya’s judiciary, government officials, legislators, clergy, media, partners and friends of Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program(OPDP).
There were cultural performances from 16 groups drawn from the Ogiek, Samburu,Endorois and Sengwer showcasing the richness of culture among the indigenous communities in Kenya. Indigenous trees were planted at the school’s grounds while OPDP appreciated the guests, its partners and friends for their unrelenting support and the community during the long struggle for the Ogiek’s rights.
Some of the Ogiek members during the Ogiek Celebration Day.Photo/OPDP
Mr Daniel Kobei, Executive Director at OPDP, called for immediate justice for the Ogiek while reiterating that the Court had already granted them rights over Mau ancestral land. He emphasized the need for the government to speed up the process of restituting their ancestral land.
“We want to awaken the government of Kenya to fast track implementation of the decision to the letter,” noted the OPDP’s Executive Director
However, he was thankful of the government’s response in establishing the 17-member taskforce on implementation of the Court’s decision but expressed concern of the laxity in executing its mandate.
As such, he reminded the government the need to establish workable mechanisms to facilitate proper implementation of the judgement.
He was grateful to the community for being patient and steadfast in the eight years they awaited for the Court’s ruling. He equally thanked the local administrators, clergy, partners and friends of OPDP for supporting them throughout the litigation period and urged them to continue standing with them until the mission of securing land ownership is achieved. In equal measure,the Executive Director was appreciative of the media for their continued support.
Mr Kobei was profoundly grateful to Voice-Kenya for its immense support in undertaking the celebration.
Listen to Mr Kobei’s speech
Representatives from Indigenous Women Council and King Baridam of Nigeria based Peace and Livelihood Support Organization(PALHSO).Photo/OPDP
On May 26,2017, the Ogiek won a human rights case against the Kenyan government filed at the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Arusha, Tanzania.
Having forcefully evicted the community from their ancestral land in Mau Forest, the Court found the government liable to violating their rights to property, culture, natural resources, development and religion encapsulated in Articles 1, 2, 4, 8, 14, 17(2) and (3), 21 and 22 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
However, the Court did not find any causal connection between the evictions and the deaths alleged to have occurred as a result; thus, the non-violation of their right to life.
Importantly, the Court recognized their indigenous status and rights over Mau land. OPDP, Center for Minority Rights Development(CEMIRIDE) and Minority Rights Group International(MRG) were the original complainants in the case on behalf of the community.
They filed the complaints with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on November 2009 after the Kenya Forest Service issued a 14-day eviction notice. The matter was in March 2012 referred to the Court to proceed with litigation. Following the ruling, the Court granted the community restitution and remedies from the Kenyan government.
It ordered it to effect ‘appropriate measures ‘within a reasonable time frame to remedy all the violations committed and to inform the court of the measures taken within six months from the date of the ruling. The community was given 120 days from the date of the judgment to submit their requests for reparation.
OPDP together with MRG managed to submit the requests on October 22,2017 to the African Court the African Commission having conducted intensive consultations with the community including collating recommendations through questionnaires and all-inclusive meetings.
In November last year, the government constituted a 6-month term Taskforce of 17 members to oversee the implementation of the case, however, it is yet to yield into an interim and final report on implementation of the decision for submission to the African Court as mandated in the gazette notice of Nov.10,2017.However,the time has already elapsed.
Its tasks include studying the African Court’s decision and other judgements issued by the local courts in relation to the Ogiek’s occupation of the Mau Forest together with land related laws and policies to see how they address the plight of the Ogiek in the Mau as well as examine the effect of the judgement on other similar cases in other areas of the country.
Also establish registration and ground status of the claimed land and recommend measures to provide redress to the Ogiek’s claim which would include restitution to the original land or compensation with the case or alternative land.
Ms Kagwiria Mbogori, Chairperson of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights(KNCHR) planting a tree with Mr Daniel Kobei,Executive Director at Ogiek Peoples' Development Program(OPDP).Photo/OPDP
Meanwhile, Ms Kagwiria Mbogori, Chairperson of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights(KNCHR) was concerned over the yet to be extended term of the taskforce despite its expiry.
She therefore urged the government to extend its term. By doing so, the taskforce would be able to come up with appropriate recommendations informed by their engagement with the Ogiek and experts on marginalized communities and land issues, she observed.
She noted that by the Court making the ruling, it was sending a clear message to Kenyan and other African governments that they must respect indigenous peoples’ land rights in order to secure their livelihoods and cultures.
“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,” she said while promising of the Commission’s unrelenting commitment towards monitoring respect and recognition of Ogiek and other indigenous communities’ rights.
Listen to Ms Mbogori’s speech
Ms Lucy Claridge, lawyer who represented Ogiek in the case, thanked the Ogiek for their patience, inspiration and unity throughout the litigation journey.
“You were an inspiration to everyone; to the indigenous peoples in Kenya and across Africa
You should continue to remain together,” she told the Ogiek.
Mr Christopher Kipkones,Chairperson of OPDP’s Board of Directors observed that the Court’s recognition of the community’s indigenous status had exalted their social standing among other communities that previously misunderstood their ancestral origin.
Ms Jane Meriwas Executive Director at Samburu Women Trust, said the anniversary was a special day for the all indigenous peoples in Kenya and Africa since the ruling was critical to their needs and interests.
She said it was important that these indigenous communities supported the Ogiek to ensure the Kenyan government implemented the Court’s decision.
Mr Gitahi Githuku, Kenya’s Programme Officer for American Jewish World Service(AJWS),noted the long journey the Ogiek have walked to justice and gave them hope that their ancestral land will finally be returned to them.
He urged the Ogiek to equally support other communities who might be faced with challenges similar to theirs.
AJWS is one of OPDP’s key partners that has generously supported OPDP and the community throughout the litigation journey.
Major Seii,Chairperson of Kalenjin Council of Elders said he was proud to be part of Ogiek’s victory and promised to continue to advocate for Ogiek’s rights.
At the climax of the celebration,the Ogiek were assured of government’s commitment towards implementing the Court’s decision.
Dr Korir Sing’oei,member of the Ogiek taskforce and legal officer at the Office of the Deputy President pledged to ensure the government carried through with the judgement of the Court.
“I pledge to continue working with you and the government to ensure the decision of the African Court is effectively implemented,” said Dr.Korir who is also the former Ogiek lawyer to the African Commission.
He assured the Ogiek that the government will continue to incorporate the community in the protection of the Mau ecosystem.
Listen to Mr Korir’s speech
Broadcast and published stories on Ogiek Celebration Day
BBC World News: One Year on Ogiek Community in Mau Forest https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72bQ3Lj8AHY
Al Jazeera English: Kenya's Ogiek celebrate anniversary of landmark rights ruling https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0rHFzZJZJY
BBC Swahili: Jamii ya Ogiek Kenya yasherehekea https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1FtrqGVnos
Kenya News Alert Tv: OGIEK COMMUNITY DEMAND FOR COMPENSATION FROM THE GOVERNMENT FOR HISTORICAL INJUSTICES AGAINST THEM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOm8XhAg-So
AL JAZEERA NEWS:Kenya's Ogiek celebrate anniversary of landmark rights ruling
The Star Newspaper:BIG READ: Ogieks sing, dance year after right to forest land granted
The Star Newspaper:Evictions that preceded landmark ruling and changed way of life