Background: On January 16, Kenya Forest Service (KFS) guards shot two
members of the Sengwer indigenous people while they were herding their cattle
in the Embobut Forest, Western Kenya. Reports indicate that community member Robert
Kirotich was killed, while David Kipkosgei Kiptilkesi was wounded and taken by
experts have called “repeated attacks and forced evictions by agents of the
Kenya Forest Service” is part of a longstanding campaign to forcibly evict the
Sengwer from their forest homes, rather than supporting community land
management programs which would protect the forest and the rights of indigenous
forest communities. Sengwer
women have especially suffered as they are violently evicted from their
forest homes and separated from the traditional foods, medicines, and cultural
resources they rely on to provide for their families.
Between 2007 and 2013, after receiving funds from the World Bank to
implement a natural
resources management project, Kenya Forest Service guards carried out a
series of attacks on the Sengwer, arresting community members, burning their
homes and destroying their property. The World Bank’s independent
accountability mechanism found that the Bank should have anticipated the risk
of violent evictions given KFS’ practices.
Despite this history, in June of 2016, the European Union approved funding
to KFS to implement the Water
Towers Protection and Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation (WaTER) project
within Sengwer territory in the Cherangany Hills and Ogiek territory at Mt
On Christmas day, 2017, 100+ armed Forest Service guards entered the lands
of the Sengwer, and in the days following they fired gunshots, burned at least
15 homes, and killed the communities’ livestock. Then again on New Year’s Eve,
KFS guards went house to house
searching for community leaders, using live bullets to intimidate community
members, and setting fire to more homes.
Despite repeated warnings of the escalating human rights risks, and calls
for action, the EU has failed to ensure that the Sengwer and Ogiek people’s
rights are protected.
“How many Sengwer should be killed by the armed KFS guards for EU to listen
to the voice of the voiceless members of Sengwer Indigenous Peoples living in
their ancestral lands in Embobut forest?” said a representative of the Sengwer
The EU announced January 17 a suspension
of support for the project. This move is welcome, however, it is only the first
step, as Sengwer homes continue to be burned.
Please send a letter to European Union officials today urging them to take immediate action to: stop all evictions and harassment of the Sengwer in the forest,
guarantee respect for the Sengwer and Ogiek people’s rights, and guarantee the
safety of threatened community leaders. The Sengwer and Ogiek are calling for
an urgent expert meeting to establish a clear roadmap to change Kenyan
government agencies’ violent approach to forest management to a rights-based
approach that works together with the Ogiek and Sengwer to protect the forest.
If the safety and human rights of the Ogiek and Sengwer peoples cannot be
immediately guaranteed, the EU must stop its support for the WaTER project.
You can find more information and videos here: http://www.forestpeoples.org