The burnings of Sengwer homes by the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) resumed last week while at the same time, the Sengwer are expected to sit down tomorrow to discuss constructive ways forward with the same Government whose agencies burn their homes. This is intolerable to the Sengwer who are calling for an urgent meeting today with the organisers of tomorrow's International Colloquium - the World Bank and the Government of Kenya - so that such harassment can be stopped permanently before the talks begin.
The Colloquium is part of the World Bank's response to its Inspection Panel's findings that the World Bank funded and KFS-implemented Natural Resource Management Project had broken key safeguards, and had failed to change KFS from being an institution that relies on forcibly evicting communities from their lands.
SENGWER STATEMENT ON CURRENT SITUATION AT EMBOBUT
- There have been ongoing evictions for many years, and each time we return to our ancestral lands. Since the most recent forceful evictions, which began in January 2014, we have continued to return to our lands.
- Other people who took advantage of the fact that our rights to our ancestral lands were not recognised and so moved into our lands in the last decades, were happy to take the November 2013 compensation and have not returned. We Sengwer never wanted to receive compensation for our lands, and were never consulted on this. Many of us received nothing, and those who did were told to take it because this was compensation for the harm caused by past evictions, and so they could take it and still stay.
- We have made very clear that we are not going to move from our ancestral lands, and that our only wish is to remain living peacefully on our lands and continuing to protect our forests. Although those higher up in the Ministry may believe that most of us have gone, in fact the vast majority of us remain on our lands, and will not leave despite the harassment and burning of our homes. We want to continue to have our homes in our 3 natural grassland glades (5,000 hectares) and to protect, maintain and restore our forests (17,000 hectares) with support, not harassment, from Government agencies.
- Despite the fact that at the Nakuru meeting (18-21 January 2015) the PS for Environment said that there would be “no more violations”, on the 25th February 2015 the burnings began again in earnest, with over 30 houses torched that day, and many belongings including school books, clothes and cooking utensils destroyed.
- We can only speculate that perhaps KFS staff on the ground have been told by their superiors they should have evicted everyone already and so have given the impression to their superiors that almost no one is left in Embobut, and so their superiors keep asking for yet another push to get rid of ‘the last people’ when they are told that people are still there. These pushes, these evictions, these harassments of women and children and families keep happening BECAUSE we are still here. We are not leaving, but we are very willing to stay and be helped to protect these lands and conserve and restore our forests.
- We are being asked to attend the 3-day Colloquium being called by the World Bank and the Government of Kenya in Eldoret, starting this Wednesday. How are forest dwelling communities such as ourselves supposed to sit down to chart a way forward with Government when at the same time our homes are being burnt and our families left homeless?
- We are willing to attend the Colloquium if the Government and the World Bank can guarantee that this burning, harassment and eviction has been stopped and will not resume. We have been told many time before that the evictions have stopped or even that they are not even taking place. We will not believe in the sincerity of the commitment that there will be no more burning of our homes and harassment of our people, unless Government agencies like KFS and its parent Ministry are able to take responsibility and acknowledge that these burnings and harassment have been happening.
You can read and download the full statement here.