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January 31, 2014

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(Forest guards arrive in Kenya's Embobut Forest in preparation for the evictions. © FPP)

Last year the Government of Kenya was getting “ready” for REDD in the Embobut Forest, now it is violently evicting the Sengwer People and forcing them “into extinction.” According to Survival International, “as many as a thousand homes have already been torched.”[i] 

Sengwer spokesman Yator Kiptum denounced the “disaster” caused by combined force of the Kenya Forest Service and Administration Police, a paramilitary unit of the police, which is now evicting the Sengwer not just from the Embobut Forest but from the entirety of the Cherangany Hills, destroying property and burning homes. “The government of Kenya is forcing us into extinction," he said.[ii]

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Wrongly justified by conservation, thousands of indigenous people in Western Kenya are threatened with their homes being burnt and their communities evicted from their ancestral forestlands.
Thousands of indigenous Sengwer/ Cherangany people in Embobut Forest, Kenya, are threatened with eviction from their forest homes by January 2nd 2014.
 
For many years the Government of Kenya has been trying to move the indigenous Sengwer/ Cherangany of Embobut forest off their ancestral land by burning their homes. The Government has done this in the name of a (long since discredited) fortress conservation approach: seeking to remove local people from their lands, rather than support them in protecting their forests. Such an eviction is illegal under the Kenyan constitution, and under the international treaties signed by Kenya.

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Representatives of Forest Peoples Programme are in Rio for the Rio +20 meeting. FPP put out a press release highlighting Indigenous Peoples’ concerns about the negotiations.

The press release features comments from Indigenous People in Guyana, Kenya, Peru and Panama. They raise several concerns that are relevant to REDD. In Guyana, indigenous peoples have not been properly consulted and their land rights are weakly protected. In Kenya, the government plans to sell indigenous land for plantations and REDD projects. In Peru, mega projects threaten to open up forests, threatening indigenous peoples including those in voluntary isolation. This is happening despite the fact that most governments have signed up to human rights agreements, environmental treaties and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. “We are here in Rio once again to demand that States fulfil their obligations and commitments,” says Onel Masardule of the Kuna people in Panama.

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In November 2011, African Wildlife Foundation and The Nature Conservancy gave an area of land covering 6,920 hectares to the Kenyan government to create the proposed Laikipia National Park. What African Wildlife Foundation doesn’t tell us in its press release is that people were violently evicted to make way for this conservation project.

A Channel 4 Documentary broadcast in June 2011 documents the violence behind the creation of this national park. AWF and TNC paid US$2 million each to buy the land from Kenya’s former president Daniel arap Moi. The Samburu indigenous people, who lived in the area, have been subjected to a series of brutal evictions.

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