Tuesday, January 14, 2014

UN objects to forest evictions

PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA President Uhuru Kenyatta second (left) and Deputy President William Ruto (left), present Sh10,000 to Musa Chemweno and his wife Betsy as Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen and other leaders look on during the compensation of 2,874 Embobut Forest Evictees in the county held at Tangul Primary School in Kabyego on November 15, 2013. The government has ruled out extension of eviction notices to thousands of Embobut forest squatters.

PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA President Uhuru Kenyatta second (left) and Deputy President William Ruto (left), present Sh10,000 to Musa Chemweno and his wife Betsy as Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen during the compensation of 2,874 Embobut Forest Evictees on November 15, 2013. Embobut forest squatters Monday issued fresh conditions they want met before they move out of the habitat.  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By PHILEMON SUTER
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The United Nations Tuesday said Embobut Forest dwellers should not be forcefully relocated from their ancestral homes.

UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People, Mr James Anaya, urged the government to protect the rights of the groups, referred to as the Sengwer and Kimaala indigenous people, who he said have lived, hunted and gathered in the Embobut Forest for hundreds of years.

“No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples and after agreement of fair and just compensation and, where possible, the option of return,” he said.

Mr Anaya said police had been gathering in the area in preparation for the evictions.

“Any removal of the 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,” he stressed.

He urged the government to act in compliance with international standards, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The intervention of the UN will most likely attract resentment from the government, which has compensated the squatters to the tune of Sh1.149 billion.

November 2013, President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto launched a compensation drive in the area where each of the 2,874 households received Sh400,000 to buy alternative land.

The government has deployed security teams to various locations in the area in readiness for the evictions following the expiry of a 21-day deadline.

Local leaders and residents have demanded a six-month extension of the deadline, saying they needed time to buy land.

Local Senator Kipchumba Murkomen said Tuesday: “We are trying to convince the State to extend the notice by six months so that people can have enough time to plan and buy land.”

He also said some people missed out on the compensation and should be exempted from eviction.

Former MP Francis Mutwol also warned that should the State carry out the evictions there would be unwarranted social implications to the victims.

However, County Commissioner Arthur Osiya said government policy could not be stopped by political statements.

“We are not buying any excuses. People have been paid money to start their lives and that is it,” he said.

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