Amnesty International is also calling on the European Union (EU) and other donors, who are heavily invested in conservation and climate change projects, to ensure that projects they fund do not contribute to human rights violations, and that the free, prior and informed consent of affected Indigenous peoples is obtained. Ongoing projects should be reviewed to ensure that there are no human rights violations.
On 17 January, 2018, the EU suspended funding for the Kenya Water Towers Protection and Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Programme following the use of lethal force resulting in the death of one Sengwer man, during the most recent episode of forceful evictions from Embobut Forest.
“Development is vital for Kenya, but it must not carry a human cost. All donors funding projects in Embobut Forest, including the EU, must ensure that conservation and climate change projects do not cause, or contribute to, human rights violations,” said Irungu Houghton.
The Sengwer are an Indigenous People, who have a cultural and spiritual attachment to Embobut Forest. The right of the Sengwer to their land is protected by the Constitution of Kenya, which defines “ancestral lands and lands traditionally occupied by hunter-gatherer communities” as community lands. This right is also protected by international human rights law.
Embobut forest lies in Elgeyo Marakwet County, in the North Rift Valley, and covers about 22,000 hectares. It was registered as a protected public forest in 1954, and is part of the Cherangany Hills complex, a water catchment area for large parts of Kenya.
Since 2009, efforts to evict the Sengwer from Embobut Forest have seen them subjected to violence by the Kenya Forest Service (KFS). In January 2014, despite a court injunction prohibiting eviction, forestry guards and police moved into the forest and burnt up to 1,500 homes. On 16 January 2018, one man was shot dead and another seriously injured during a forced eviction by armed KFS guards. Since 29 December 2017 more than 300 houses have been burnt to the ground.
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