East African Communities Rising Against Land Acquisition
on April 24, 2013 by AfricanArgumentsEditor
Endoris, a minority community of about 60, 000 people lives a precarious life
in the North Rift Valley Kenya. In 1974 the government forcefully evicted the
community from its ancestral land to pave way for a game reserve. The
community lost its lifestyle and livelihoods forcing them to become squatters
who now sit on a semi-arid land kilometres away from their original home.
Bogoria is the land of our ancestors, they settled there from Sudan 2000 years
ago, the government moved us to this dry place that does not have food and
water for our animals, we cannot conduct our rituals here ” said Cathereen
Kandie, an Endorois elder.
community sued the government for eviction and won the petition before the
African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) in February 2010.
was among three women and a man from the community who returned to the
commission in 2011 urging it to put pressure on the government to implement
its hitherto unimplemented recommendations.
commission had directed the government to ensure unrestricted access,
restitution, compensation and royalties to the land.
is a snapshot of actions being taken by communities in Kenya and Africa who
researchers say are not sitting back as local and foreign investors dislodge
them from their land for purposes of development.
who are feeling short-changed in large scale land acquisition are increasingly
becoming aware of their land rights and are using a variety of ways to seek
justice and demand accountability from the authorities that preside over such
deals” Says Emily Polack a researcher at International Institute for
Environment and Development (IIED).
raise their concerns, different communities are using courts and other legal
mechanisms, requesting an audience with authorities, working with NGOs, civil
societies, religious leaders, media, political parties, and forming local
associations to strengthen negotiating power and resorting to demonstrations
should other routes fail.
outcomes of citizens’ actions can be tangible and intangible” says Polack
adding that if the actions result to cancellation of a land deal, the
cancellation is as non-transparent as the signing.
the Endorois victory, the Ogiek, a traditionally hunter-gatherer community
that claims Mau forest in Rift Valley province to be their traditional home
filed a petition with the commission in May 2011 seeking to stop the
government from evicting the Ogiek from Mau forest, actually in March 15 2013
we got interim orders directing the government to stop further actions in Mau
until our cause is heard and determined,” Daniel Kobei, executive director
of Ogiek People’s Development Programme said.
April 2013 research findings by (IIED) and International Development Research
Centre (IDRC), the accelerating large scale land acquisitions processes in
Africa and other parts of the world are lacking accountability and are locking
say large scale land acquisition is a matter of human rights hence public
accountability is critical as it enables local people to voice their concerns.
need to understand more about the accountability weaknesses in different
contexts, we also need to understand options available for citizens to seek
greater accountability and how to strengthen these mechanisms” says Polack.
to Lorenzo Cotula a researcher at (IDRC), the international investment law is
strong and offers great protection to investors who seek to acquire large
areas of land.
the flipside, national laws legitimize abuse of power against the powerless,”
to Odenda Lumumba, Coordinator of Kenya Land Alliance that champions reforms
of policies governing land, “land rush” in Africa peaked in 2008 following
the global food, fuel and financial crisis.
says property rights in many emerging markets are dysfunctional to the point
that ownership of land can be granted to an investor without the tens of
thousands of people living on or dependent on the land knowing about the mega
of land rights warn that displacement of communities from their land rob them
off land rights and often spark conflict over resources.
IIED report says that despite a new wave of progressive land laws in various
countries, some important features tend to undermine pathways to
passed the Land Act and Village Land Act in 1999 but only 850 villages have
obtained a certificate for their village land out of an estimated total of
between 11, 000 and 14,000 villages.
its 2012-2013 survey, Rights and Resource Initiative RRI an organization
advancing land, market and policy reforms, only 0.4% of forest land is owned
by local people in Africa.
Land Matrix Partnership, a global alliance of civil society and
intergovernmental organizations says that 260 land deals are in East Africa,
216 in South East Asia and 132 in South America. 200 million hectares of land
have been ‘grabbed’ in Africa since 2001 LMP claims.
Deininger a lead economist at the Development Research Group who conducted a
research on land acquisition commissioned by the World Bank says in many
African countries and other places where land ownership is not respected or
recorded, details on investments are treated as confidential locking out
says some African countries are trying to reverse previous land acquisitions.
is taking back land sold to investors because much of it is sitting idle, not
growing sugar cane or other crops as promised by the investors,” said
she was elected, Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf abolished all
existing logging concessions. She also directed an audit of $8 billion
contracts signed by ministers and corporations.
promoted community involvement in managing forests and required companies
applying for new logging permits to obtain consent from local communities,”
World Bank says 70 percent of the current demand for land is in Sub-Saharan
Africa. The bank advocates for stronger and clear land rights that allow
communities to benefit from economically viable and secure projects.
Kahare is a journalist based in Nairobi.