African Court rules in favor of the Ogiek Community (Kenya)

Hurray! Some good news to share from Kenya to start the weekend!

Today, May 26th, the African Court on Human and People’s Rights ruled in favor of the Ogiek community who sued the Kenyan government for evicting them from their ancestral lands. (See a select reading list below for more info)

The court declared that the State violated Article 22 of the African Charter as it failed to consult Ogiek people on development programs affecting them. Further, the court said, the State didn’t substantiate its purported preservation of Mau Forest. It violated Ogiek’s cultural rights by evicting them. If you are on Twitter, you can watch a 30-second video of the celebrations in court and see some of the live tweets by going to #AfricanCourtOgiekRuling.

This was the first time the African Court, in operation since 2006, ruled on an indigenous peoples’ rights case.

Details of the verdict ruling have not yet been publically released, but I do hope @dkobei, @esthercheburet, @fredngusilo, @SAMORAI, or one of the other hardworking, passionate activists involved in the case will provide us with some more information and their assessment of what this might mean for the Ogiek people and land rights in Kenya – once they finish celebrating of course :grinning:

Congrats to all the passionate justice defenders who worked hard to bring about this important land rights victory! :sparkles:


For more information on the Ogiek community’s land rights injustice, see:


@LucyClaridge from Minority Rights Group also shared MRG press releases below in this discussion thread.

cc: @marenabrinkhurst, @rachaelknight, @davidarach, @jaronvogelsang

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Wonderful. I love this video of the community celebrating. You’ll want to turn the volume way up.

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Wonderful news! Victory for the Ogiek community - congratulations to all who have worked so hard on this case!

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Here is a news story that announces the ruling: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-kenya-rights-ogiek-idUSKBN18M1ZC

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Great news indeed. Congrats Kenya

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Update: Al Jazeera has also written a feature on the case. Well worth the read!

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Coverage of the victory from the BBC:

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Hi everyone, the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights is due to deliver judgment in the Ogiek land rights case against Kenya on Friday 26 May (10 am Tanzanian time). More details, including the livestream link via which you can view the judgment delivery, are below.

Best

Lucy Claridge Legal Director Minority Rights Group International

###African Court to deliver landmark judgment on Ogiek community land rights case against Kenyan government

PRESS RELEASES | 22 MAY 2017

The African Court on Human and Peoples Rights, at its 45thsession on 26 May 2017 in Arusha, will deliver a long-awaited judgment on a case brought before it, by the Ogiek indigenous peoples against the Kenyan government, for consistent violations and denial of their land rights.

‘This case is of fundamental importance for indigenous peoples in Africa, and particularly in the context of the continent-wide conflicts we are seeing between communities, sparked by pressures over land and resources,‘ says Lucy Claridge, Minority Rights Group International’s (MRG) Legal Director. ‘Ultimately the Court will be ruling on the crucial role of indigenous peoples in the conservation of land and natural resources, and consequently, the mitigation of climate change in a region currently ravaged by drought and famine.’

The Ogiek, 35, 000 of whom are the victims in this landmark case, live in the Mau Forest Complex in the Rift Valley of Kenya. They are one of the last remaining forest-dwelling communities and among the most marginalised indigenous peoples in Kenya. They allege eight violations of their rights to life, property, natural resources, development, religion and culture by the Kenyan government under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to which Kenya is a signatory.

This is the first time the African Court, in operation since 2006, will rule on an indigenous peoples’ rights case and is by far the largest ever case brought before the Court. It was originally lodged with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, but was referred for the first time in history to the Court on the basis that it evinces serious and mass human rights violations. MRG, Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program (OPDP) and CEMIRIDE were the three original Complainants before the African Commission.

‘This judgment will be a huge milestone for the Ogiek community. We are optimistic that it will be positive, and crucially, that it will be respected by the Kenyan government, including implementation, so that Ogiek can feel complete and enjoy all the basic rights like every other Kenyan,’ says Daniel Kobei, Executive Director of OPDP.

The case was heard by the Court in November 2014. MRG delivered an oral intervention on behalf of the original Complainants, whilst two Ogiek community members and other expert witnesses gave testimony. MRG supported 25 Ogiek community members to attend the hearing, and supported a further 40 to view the hearing in Kenya via a live stream from the Court.

In March 2013, the African Court issued a provisional measures order requiring the Kenyan Government to stop land transactions in the Mau Forest and refrain from taking any action which would harm the case, until it had reached a decision. This order unfortunately has not been respected. For decades the Ogiek have been routinely subjected to arbitrary forced evictions from their ancestral land in the Mau Forest by the government, without consultation or compensation. This has had a detrimental impact on the pursuit of their traditional lifestyle, religious and cultural life, access to natural resources and their very existence as an indigenous people. The Ogiek have a spiritual, emotional and economic attachment to the forest. They rely on it for food, shelter and identity.

Notes to editors

  • Watch the judgment being delivered on 26 May 2017 via a live webstream direct from the African Court
  • Find out more about the Ogiek on MRG’s legal cases website
  • Minority Rights Group International is a non-governmental organization working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide. We work with more than 150 partners in over 50 countries.

###For more information please contact: Lucy Claridge, MRG Legal Director (English, French) M: +44 (0) 7866 741922 E: lucy.claridge@mrgmail.org

Kanyinke Sena, MRG Kenya Advocacy Officer (English, Swahili) M: +254 725288402 E: kanyinke.sena@mrgmail.org

Daniel Kobei, Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program Executive Director (English, Swahili) M: +254 722433757 T: +254 512213803 E: dkobei@yahoo.com / opdp@ogiekpeoples.org

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Hi everyone, in case you didn’t hear the news already… we won! More details below.

We don’t yet have the judgment in full, but we do have the judges’ unanimous decision - which can be found here:

###Huge victory for Kenya’s Ogiek as African Court sets major precedent for indigenous peoples’ land rights

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) wholeheartedly applauds an historic judgment from the African Court of Human and Peoples Rights in Arusha today in favour of the Ogiek community of Kenya. Following an eight-year legal battle, the Court found that the Kenyan government violated seven separate articles of the African Charter in a land rights case that dates back to colonial times.

‘Crucially the Court has recognised that the Ogiek - and therefore many other indigenous peoples in Africa - have aleading role to play as guardians of local ecosystems, and in conserving and protecting land and natural resources, including the Mau Forest,’ says Lucy Claridge, MRG’s Legal Director, who argued the case before the Court.

‘For the Ogiek, this is history in the making. The issue of Ogiek land rights has finally been heard and the case has empowered them to feel relevant. I know that the case also gives hope to other indigenous peoples: it has made the issues seem real,’ says Daniel Kobei, Executive Director of Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program (OPDP).

The Ogiek, 35, 000 of whom are the victims in this landmark case, live in the Mau Forest Complex in the Rift Valley of Kenya. They are one of the last remaining forest-dwelling communities and among the most marginalised indigenous peoples in Kenya. They alleged eight violations of their rights to life, property, natural resources, development, religion and culture by the Kenyan government under the African Charter, to which Kenya is a signatory.

This is the first time the African Court, in operation since 2006, has ruled on an indigenous peoples’ rights case and is by far the largest ever case brought before the Court. It was originally lodged with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, but was referred for the first time in history to the Court on the basis that it evinces serious and mass human rights violations. Minority Rights Group International, Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program and CEMIRIDE were the three original Complainants before the African Commission.

‘By ruling that through a persistent denial of Ogiek land rights, their religious and associated cultural and hunter-gatherer practices were also violated, the Court has sent a crystal clear message to the Kenyan and other African governments that they must respect indigenous peoples’ land rights in order to secure their livelihoods and cultures,’ adds Lucy Claridge.

For decades, Ogiek have been routinely subjected to arbitrary forced evictions by the government from their ancestral land in the Mau Forest, without consultation or compensation. This has had a detrimental impact on the pursuit of their traditional lifestyle, religious and cultural life, access to natural resources and their very existence as an indigenous people. Ogiek have a spiritual, emotional and economic attachment to the forest. They rely on it for food, shelter and identity.

Given that Ogiek rights over ancestral land are already recognised in both the Kenyan Constitution and recently enacted Community Land Law, and in light of the upcoming elections and history of lax implementation of the African Commission Endorois judgment, MRG now urges the Kenyan government to fully respect the Court’s judgment and take immediate steps to remedy the violations experienced by Ogiek over decades.

Earlier this month a UN anti-racism body also urged the Kenyan government to ensure legal acknowledgement of the collective rights of indigenous peoples, and prevent, punish and sanction acts threatening their security and property.

###Notes to editors

  • Minority Rights Group International, Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program and CEMIRIDE were the three original Complainants in the ‘Ogiek case’ before the African Commission.
  • Find out more about the Ogiek on MRG’s legal cases website
  • The full judgment will shortly be available on the website of the African Court
  • Minority Rights Group International is a non-governmental organization working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide. We work with more than 150 partners in over 50 countries.

###For more information please contact: Lucy Claridge, MRG Legal Director (English, French) M: +44 (0) 7866 741922 E: lucy.claridge@mrgmail.org Twitter: @ClaridgeLucy / @MinorityRights

Kanyinke Sena, MRG Kenya Advocacy Officer (English, Swahili) M: +254 725288402 E: kanyinke.sena@mrgmail.org

Daniel Kobei, Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program Executive Director (English, Swahili) M: +254 722433757 T: +254 512213803 E: dkobei@yahoo.com / opdp@ogiekpeoples.org Twitter: @OgiekPeoples

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Hi @LucyClaridge! Thanks for keeping us informed about this fabulous news. Thank you for your hard work, and congratulations on your success!

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Hi everyone, if you’d like to see more on the judgment and what was ruled, which goes far beyond as described above (the Court found violations of the Ogiek’s rights to non-discrimination, property, natural resources, culture, religion and right to development, recognised them as an indigenous people and adopted key UNDRIP standards in this respect) please see the link below, which has the judgment in full, the pleadings and much more information. Thanks, Lucy

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Here is another great article about this legal victory and why the judgement matters for everyone, especially those of us working for indigenous and community land rights in Africa. Thank you for sharing, @LucyClaridge