Kenya: UN expert hails historic reparations ruling in favour of indigenous peoples

An independent UN human rights expert on Monday hailed a decision by the African Court on Human and People’s Rights, to award reparations to the Ogiek indigenous peoples, for harm that they suffered due to “injustices and discrimination.”

The historic ruling follows a landmark judgment delivered by the Court on 26 May 2017, finding that the Government of Kenya had violated the right to life, property, natural resources, development, religion and culture of the Ogiek, under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

‘Important step’

This judgment and award of reparations marks another important step in the struggle of the Ogiek for recognition and protection of their rights to ancestral land in the Mau Forest, and implementation of the 2017 judgment of the African Court,” said Francisco Calí Tzay, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.

The Court ordered the Government of Kenya to pay compensation of 57,850,000 Kenya Shillings (approximately $488,000), for material prejudice for loss of property and natural resources, and a further 100,000,000 Shillings for moral prejudice suffered by Ogiek people, “due to violations of the right to non-discrimination, religion, culture and development”, according to a statement issued by the UN human rights office, OHCHR.

In addition, the Court ordered non-monetary reparations, including the restitution of Ogiek ancestral lands and full recognition of the Ogiek as indigenous peoples.

The Court also requires the Kenyan Government to undertake delimitation, demarcation, and titling, to protect Ogiek rights to property revolving around occupation, use and enjoyment of the Mau Forest and its resources.

Furthermore, the court ordered Kenya to take necessary legislative, administrative or other measures to recognise, respect and protect the right of the Ogiek to be consulted with regard to development, conservation or investment projects in their ancestral lands.

They must be granted the right to give or withhold their free and informed consent to these projects to ensure minimal damage to their survival, the ruling said.

Expert testimony

The independent UN rights expert Mr. Calí Tzay, provided expert testimony to the Court in the landmark case, based on the mandate’s long-standing engagement in the promotion and protection of the rights of the Ogiek.

I welcome this unprecedented ruling for reparations and acknowledge that the decision sends a strong signal for the protection of the land and cultural rights of the Ogiek in Kenya, and for indigenous peoples’ rights in Africa and around the world,” he said.

The UN expert urged the Government of Kenya to respect the Court’s decision and proceed to implement this judgement and the 2017 ruling by the court without delay.