Celebration of the Resilience of Indigenous People during the International Day of World’s Indigenous People 2020.

This statement was first published by Defenders Coalition

Today, the Defenders Coalition joins indigenous persons from around the globe to commemorate the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People. The Defenders Coalition is proud to be part of this marginalized community that has endured diverse effects of COVID-19 on top of the age-old injustices and marginalization that characterize this community throughout the world.

International Day of World’s Indigenous People brings together indigenous people, focusing on raising awareness of their existence and work towards the promotion of their rights including the right to land and conservation of the environment. Indigenous people have always been recognized as the best conservators of their environment and thus their contribution towards conservation must be recognized and appreciated.

The Defenders Coalition recognizes this year’s theme Covid-19 and Indigenous People’s Resilience and acknowledges that Indigenous people of Kenya and beyond have always shown their capability to adapt not only to the pandemic but other disasters that include forceful evictions from their ancestral homes. The state, through its agencies, have repeatedly evicted rightful indigenous people in Kenya from their homes before and during the covid-19 pandemic without respite. The pain of the evictions continues to return time and again to haunt these communities across the country.

On 10 July 2020, Kenya Forest Service guards burned down 28 homes belonging to Sengwer Indigenous People in the Embobut Forest. Since 2 July 2020, the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) has engaged in a large-scale and deliberate campaign to remove Ogiek communities from their ancestral home in the Mau Forest.

With impunity and lack of acknowledgement of the 2017 landmark ruling by the African Court of Justice and Human Rights that affirmed the Ogiek’s right to live in Mau forest, the government of Kenya continues to prejudice the implementation of the ruling. It is clear that with the felling of the impeccable

ecosystem that indigenous people had with forests came with a threat of felling their ways of life. We must rise up more than ever to protect these people who are facing extinction through the perpetual injustices directed at them.

On this day, Defenders Coalition stands in solidarity and celebrates the resilience of all Indigenous people in the world and  recommends that:

  • The Kenyan Government respects promotes and protects the rights of all  indigenous people by ceasing forced evictions of The Sengwer and Ogiek Indigenous People from Embobut and Mau Forests respectively which are their ancestral homes;
  • The government to include Indigenous People in the formulation of policies and guidelines that respond to Covid-19 and ensure participation of the community in the implementation of the Community Land Act 2016;
  • Indigenous people are allowed to live peacefully in their ancestral homes, the way they have lived for centuries to protect their way of life and from potential extinction;
  • The Kenyan Government acknowledges and implements the 2017 ruling by the African Court of Justice and Human Rights to stop the evictions of the Ogiek Indigenous Community from their ancestral land.