The Ogiek of Mount Elgon, Kenya, are on the verge of reaching a legal agreement that will have their ancestral lands returned to them. However, they urgently need financial help (around £5,000) in order to make these last steps possible. This is an extraordinary opportunity for them to regain their land and continue their sustainable livelihoods, an extraordinary opportunity for them to gain legal recognition so that they are no longer threatened with eviction.
Since its inception at the IUCN Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (CEESP) ‘Sharing Power’ conference in Whakatane, New Zealand, in January 2011, the Whakatane Mechanism has been piloted in two places: at Mount Elgon in Western Kenya and most recently in the Ob Luang National Park in Northern Thailand.
On 6 June 2000 the Chepkitale moorlands (the Kenyan side of Mount Elgon) were gazetted: the grazing lands and forests where the Ogiek have lived since time immemorial were turned into a game reserve without consulting the Ogiek. They were then forced to abandon their hills, forest, honey, cattle and transhumance and made to live on tiny 2.5 acre land parcels down in the lowlands. Here, dominant neighbouring peoples were given land around them. Whipped up by politicians in the run up to the 2007 elections, these people formed an armed militia gang, the SLDF (Sabaot Land Defence Force), who raped and murdered the Ogiek until they fled back up into the Chepkitale Highlands.