The Ogiek case - the first case on indigenous people's rights to be considered by the African Court

02/26/2014. On behalf of Ogiek Peoples' Development Programme (OPDP), Minority Rights Group International (MRG) and the Centre for Minority Rights (CEMIRIDE) inform that the hearing against the Government of Kenya at the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights related to the Ogiek community has been scheduled. The case, originally scheduled to be heard on 13 and 14 March, 2014 in Arusha, Tanzania, will now be heard in June 2014.

The case was lodged on behalf of the Ogiek people in 2009 and alleged violations of the Ogiek's rights to property, natural resources, development, religion, culture and non-discrimination under the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. 

This is one of the first cases of a Commission referral in a communication brought originally by NGOs, and it is the first case to have reached hearing stage – creating landmark precedent.  It is also one of the Court’s first ever cases, and the first to consider the rights of indigenous peoples. The case argues that a denial of Ogiek rights to access to land and natural resources is also a violation of the right to life, in terms of denying Ogiek livelihood.  It also seeks to establish that indigenous peoples’ rights should not, and need not, be denied at the expense of conservation.

In 2012, the Commission referred the matter to the African Court on the grounds that it evinced serious and mass human rights violations.  In an historic ruling in March 2013, the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights issued a provisional measures order in favour of the Ogiek community – the first time that the Court has issued such an order in favour of an indigenous people.  The Court ordered the government of Kenya to halt parcelling out land in the disputed forest area until the Court reaches a decision in the matter and to refrain from any act/thing that would/might irreparably prejudice the main application, until the Court gives its final decision in the case. This is indicative of how serious it considers the issues at stake.
Images by Ishbel Matheson.