January 13, 2014
A United Nations independent expert has urged the Government of Kenya “to ensure that the human rights of the Sengwer indigenous people are fully respected, in strict compliance with international standards protecting the rights of indigenous peoples.”
The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, expressed deep concern about reports that police are poised to forcibly evict Sengwer indigenous people from their homes in the Embobut Forest in the Cherangani hills, in western Kenya.
“Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly relocated from their lands or territories,” Mr. Anaya said, quoting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples*. “No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement of fair and just compensation and, where possible, the option of return.”
For centuries, the Sengwer indigenous people, also known as the Cherangany indigenous people, have lived, hunted and gathered in the Embobut Forest area in the Rift Valley of Kenya. Today, many Sengwer still live in or near the Embobut Forest and continue to engage in cultural and subsistence practices in the area.
According to reports, police forces have been amassing in the Embobut Forest area in preparation for evictions ordered by the Government in pursuit of its forest and water conservation objectives. Since the 1970s Kenyan authorities have made repeated efforts to forcibly evict the Sengwer from the forest for resettlement in other areas.
“Any removal of Sengwer people from their traditional lands should not take place without adequate consultations and agreement with them, under just terms that are fully protective of their rights”, Mr. Anaya stressed.
(*) See the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples here.
The UN Human Rights Council appointed S. James Anaya as Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples in March 2008. Mr. Anaya is a Regents Professor and the James J. Lenoir Professor of Human Rights Law and Policy at the University of Arizona (United States). As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. Learn more, click here.