The Government of Kenya declared today, Monday, November 13, 2023, a national public holiday dedicated to a tree-growing exercise led by President William Ruto. This initiative seems to be part of an ambitious plan to cultivate billions of trees with a view to aligning with global efforts to combat climate change and protect biodiversity following the recent adoption of the Global Biodiversity Framework during COP 15 on biodiversity to guide global action on nature through to 2030.
Kenya positions itself as the leading voice on issues of climate change in Africa, yet viciously evicts indigenous people who play a crucial role in conservation of nature, and are at the frontlines of the impacts climate change. This is the fate of the Ogiek in Kenya who face state orchestrated evictions from their ancestral homes, despite the landmark judgments by African Court of Human and People's Rights, recognizing their entitlement to live on their ancestral land in the Mau Forest and providing reparations for the material and moral harm suffered as a result of their marginalization and dispossession of their lands.
On this national tree planting day, it is worth remembering that indigenous people are the unsung heroes of environmental stewardship and must be at the centre of climate action. The Preamble of the Paris Agreement to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change makes it clear that all States "should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights.” It is only through equitable, and inclusive partnerships that seek to strengthen and empower communities most impacted by climate change, that we can truly attain just and sustainable climate action. On this tree planting day, let us also sow seeds of human dignity, equity, social justice, inclusiveness, equality, human rights, and non-discrimination.
Consequently, we demand:
- The government must expedite the implementation of the African Court's judgments on the Ogiek case, which stated Mau Forest is their ancestral home. The government, among other reparations, must also compensate the Ogieks Sh157 million for moral and material harm they suffered, as the court ordered.
- The government must cease and desist from any further violations, including but not limited to forceful evictions, and undertakes to commit to using the best available means to provide reparations to preserve the dignity, culture, and future of indigenous communities affected and to explore alternatives in line with its international and regional treaty obligations.
- We strongly oppose using exclusionary and militarized methods in conservation that limit access to essential resources without offering fair or better alternatives. This undermines people's fundamental rights and freedoms. We insist that indigenous communities should be a top priority in climate action.
- Ogiek People’s Development Project
- Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC)