Ogiek Peoples' Development Program(OPDP) conducted a two-day refresher training for paralegals central to promoting advocacy on human rights for Indigenous Peoples(IPs) in Kenya.
The training held on 29-30 June,2018 in Nakuru thanks to Voice Kenya financial support brought together 29 paralegals from Nakuru, Baringo,Narok, Uasin Gishu and Nandi counties.
It involved both men and women churned into ambassadors of African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights ruling on Ogiek's land rights-related.
Mr John Samorai,OPDP's Program Officer said the main purpose of the training was to acquaint them with fundamentals of the ruling thus preparing them for effective monitoring of the decision's implementation.
"The paralegals are expected to monitor implementation of the ruling by documenting and sharing reports and any other information.They are also to support further community awareness on the ruling," said Mr Samorai.
He added that paralegals and human right monitors are to monitor the implementation through a virtual network for a period of one year.
During the training,the paralegals were also were taken through sessions on safety and security measures to observe while undertaking their work;laws and policies on land,environment and natural resources and this is important in enabling them delve into related issues proficiently.They were also equipped with knowledge and skills on effective monitoring the execution of the ruling to ensure the Ogiek finally secure land justice.
The training led by Ms Salome Nduta and Mr Benard Gachie from National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders-Kenya (NCHRD-K) engaged the paralegals in interactive lectures and group discussions and presentations.
Among the highlights of the training were the paralegals sharing their experiences in championing for the rights of Ogiek men,women and girls traversing campaigns against Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting(FGM/C) and stigma against Ogiek living with disabilities;ending land dispossession and inaccessibility to forest resources and eliminating disempowerment of women and youth.
Importance of paralegals
The importance of paralegals in curtailing attempts to deny the Ogiek their rights was emphasized despite working in a hostile environment where human rights monitors are attacked or arrested.
Ms Nduta noted that human rights monitoring was important as it ' influenced policies and reform processes and was vital to publicizing an area's human rights situation.'
Also key to 'exposing and holding to account perpetrators and preventing future occurrence of human rights violations," she added.
Threats against paralegals
While Ogiek await Kenyan government to restitute their land and compensate them, worries over the security of the paralegals who are the eyes on the ground are rife since community members continue to be intimidated with forceful ejections and lawsuits.
Ms Annah Naramat,one of the paralegals raised concern over the arrests and threats made against the human rights defenders protecting Ogiek's land rights and sought to know means of countering the issue to which Ms Nduta informed that that they can report the cases to NCHRD-K for guidance and action.
Mr Christopher Kipkones,chair of OPDP's board noted of the laxity exuded by the Kenyan government in honouring the rights to remedy and reparation awarded by the African Court.
"Since ruling the government has undertaken minimal steps to implement the ruling," Mr Kipkones expressed the concern during the training.
Mr. Daniel Kobei, Executive Director at OPDP encouraged the paralegals to continue pushing for Ogiek's land justice and underlined the fact that the community deserved to enjoy life synonymous to other Kenyans.
The paralegals will be using a virtual monitoring network in carrying out their activities thus facilitating easier tracking of identified and reported cases.