Letter from FPP to the President of Kenya in protest at attacks on the Ogiek community
H.E. The Honourable Emilio Mwai Kibaki, C.G.H., M.P.
P.O. Box 40530
Fax: +254 20 210 150
23 March 2004
Re: ATROCIOUS ATTACKS ON THE OGIEK AT MT. ELGON
The Forest Peoples Programme was alarmed to learn of the recent events occurring at Chepyuk Forest, on the slopes of Mount Elgon. According to the reports we have received, the indigenous Ogiek community living there was attacked, two people have been killed and other severely wounded, and two hundred houses have been burned down. The aggressors are reported to be from the Pok (Sabaot) group, the locally dominant group.
This forest was originally inhabited by the Chepkitale Ogiek hunter-gatherer people. In the 1970s, 24,000 acres of land was legally assigned to the Ogiek as part of a settlement scheme, but since then it has been encroached upon by the Sabaot. According to our sources, the recent attack was intended to drive out the remaining Ogiek residents. As the original inhabitants of the Mount Elgon forest, the Ogiek have the right to inhabit a much larger area than that settled in the 1970s, but now they are being deprived of even the small portion that was assigned to them.
As a result of the attack, 30 Ogiek were arrested and reportedly severely beaten, including several elderly people, and of these, nine are still in jail and seventeen on bail. One man, Mr Benson Simotwa, is still in hospital awaiting surgery for a bullet wound; he apparently has no resources to pay for the medical bill however and is in a critical situation. None of the aggressors have been arrested or brought to justice.
The Forest Peoples Programme urges you, your Excellency, to uphold the legal right of the Ogiek to settlement in the area, and to ensure that those responsible for the attack be brought to justice the most rapidly possible. We also urge you to speed up, in a just manner and in accordance with the fundamental principles of democracy, the trial process for those Ogiek in prison, or to release them immediately.
We look forward to learning how you have brought justice to the Ogiek and redressed this unhappy situation. We also would be interested in learning how you plan to avoid this kind of horrific attack in the future.