Leaders of the Ogiek have asked President Uhuru Kenyatta to respect a continental court judgment that indicted the government for driving the indigenous community out of the Mau Forest.
After an eight-year legal battle, the Arusha-based African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights ruled on Friday that the government had violated the rights and freedoms of the Ogiek by driving them out of their ancestral lands.
It ordered the government “to take all appropriate measures within a reasonable time frame to remedy all the violations established” and inform it of the progress within six months.
The court asked the Ogiek to file their requests for reparations within two months.
In an interview with the Nation today, the executive director of the Ogiek People’s Development Programme (OPDP), Mr Daniel Kobei, termed the judgment historic and urged the government to have it implemented fully.
“The issue of Ogiek land rights has finally been heard and the case has empowered them to feel relevant as indigenous people,” Mr Kobei said.
He, however, called for calm as he and other leaders engage the government towards implementation of the judgment.
One of the last remaining forest-dwelling communities and most marginalised indigenous people in Kenya, the 35,000-strong Ogiek live in the Mau Forest complex.
The community sued the government for eight violations of their rights to life, property, natural resources, development, religion and culture under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to which Kenya is a signatory.
London-based lawyer Lucy Claridge, the organisation’s legal director, who argued the case, said the court had recognised that the Ogiek and other indigenous people in Africa had a leading role to play as guardians of local ecosystems and in conserving land and natural resources such as the Mau.
The case was initially lodged by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights.
Recently, Ogiek Council of Elders chairman Joseph Towett decried the government’s plans to lift a caveat on title deeds for land around the forest, allegedly spearheaded by Deputy President William Ruto.