African court orders Kenya to pay $1.3 million as reparations to indigenous Ogiek people

The government will also formally recognise the Ogiek, one of the most marginalised groups, as an indigenous people of Kenya

By Rajat Ghai
Published: Thursday 23 June 2022
Photo: @court_afchpr / Twitter

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, an international court established by members of the African Union, ordered the Kenyan government June 23, 2022, to pay $1.3 million to the indigenous Ogiek people as reparations for historical injustices and discriminations.

The Government of Kenya will pay the Ogiek 57,850,000 Kenyan Shillings ($491,493.60) as compensation for material damages and 100,000,000 Ksh ($849,600) in moral damages, Justice Stella Anukam said in her judgement, according to a statement by the Forest Peoples Programme, a non-profit.

Read Kenya’s Ogiek tribe fights government to return home

The government will establish a Community Development Fund within 12 months, in which all funds ordered as compensation in the case will be deposited.

The government has also been ordered to recognise the Ogiek as an indigenous people of Kenya. It has to make that recognition effective including through formal recognition of the Ogiek language and the people’s cultural and religious practices.

It will also have to take all necessary legislative and administrative measures in consultation with the Ogiek to delimit, demarcate their ancestral lands and give them community titles over the land.

The Court however dismissed the Ogiek’s request for a public apology and monument.

Who are the Ogiek?

The Minority Rights Group International (MRGI), an international group advocating the rights of indigenous peoples and disadvantaged groups, describes the Ogiek as “one of the last forest-dwelling hunter-gatherer communities” on its website.

“Since time immemorial, they have lived in the Mau Forest in Kenya’s Rift Valley and in the forested areas around Mt Elgon, relying on these territories for food, shelter, identity and therefore their very survival,” according to the portal.

It added that the groups has been “routinely subjected to arbitrary forced evictions from their ancestral land by the Kenyan government, without consultation or compensation (since Kenyan independence in 1963).”

“…when the Ogiek are removed, their forest is not protected but rather exploited by logging and tea plantations — some owned by government officials,” Survival International, which also advocates the rights of indigenous peoples, says on its website about the Ogiek.

The Ogiek are thus among some of the most marginalised of all indigenous peoples and minorities in Kenya. 

The Court had ruled May 26, 2017 that the Kenyan government had violated seven different articles under the African Charter — including the rights to property, freedom from discrimination, culture, freely dispose of wealth and natural resources and development, in the case of the Ogiek.

On June 23, the Kenyan government said it was implementing the 2017 judgement to improve the lot of the Ogiek. However, the three-judge Bench unanimously dismissed all arguments.

“This judgment should be heralded worldwide for what it signifies to a community that has been historically marginalised, then offered hope through winning their case in 2017, then undermined through failure of that victory to yield meaningful change,” MRGI said in a statement on its website.

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