04 March 2014
TEST FOR THE AFRICAN HUMAN RIGHTS SYSTEM
African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights in Arusha Tanzania will soon hear
the Ogiek Case (Application 006/2012 African Commission on Human and Peoples
Rights V Republic of Kenya) that has far reaching implications on the
relationship between an Indigenous community's land rights and state interests
in Forest conservation. The African Courts decision regarding the plight of
the Ogiek Community of Kenya will impact not only the community that brought
the case but the entire Human Rights Community in Africa.
centuries Ogiek community lived sustainably within the forests.Indeed Ogiek
culture is based on conservation of forest resources that provide food shelter
and the basis of the religious observance.
the arrival of the colonist, the destruction of the Mau Forest Complex begun,
and has continued virtually unabated through Subsequent post colonial
administrations in Kenya. the clearing of indigenous tree species and
replacement with exotic trees has undermined the forest for decades.
Post-colonial government policies of creating settlement schemes and
allocating large forest acreage to logging companies and political elites have
also continued to degrade the
Destruction of forest in Ololoipangi Narok
County (Picture coming soon)
the 15 years leading up to 2009, Kenya witnessed the destruction of
approximately 25 percent of the then-remaining Mau Forest Complex. In 2009,
the Kenyan Government issued an eviction notice to the Ogiek (and others
living in the forest) to vacate the Mau Forest area in thirty days.
Kenyans state's attempt to finally stop decades of forest destruction
that it had explicitly and implicitly condoned, took no account of the
indigenous Ogiek's relationship to the forest , nor their long-term role in
fighting to preserve the forest. the 2009 evictions propelled the Ogiek
community to take their plea for justice and conservation of Mau to the
African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.
decades of litigation in the Kenyan courts, it was clear that the government
had refused to recognize the group rights of the Ogiek peoples to land and
natural resources, to culture and to participate in decision making
international human rights bodies had recognized the indigenous rights
of the Ogiek Peoples. Both the UN special rapporteur on adequate housing and
the UN special Rapporteur on fundamental rights and freedoms of indigenous
peoples have recommended that the ogiek should be recognized as an indigenous
community and their land rights protected.
case is one of the first cases before the court to proceed to a full trial and
is the first case at the court touching on collective rights to traditional
lands. the case will offers an opportunity for the African Court to address
multiple pressing issues that impact communities across the continent, the
scope and the practical operation of communal land Rights, the nexus between
conservation and indigenous peoples' rights, remedies of historical injustices
and the rights to community participation and consultation in relation to
state development and conservation planning.