ESCR-Net sends letter to the ACHPR regarding land restitution for the Endorois

Publish Date: 
Friday, March 10, 2017

On 22 February 2017, ESCR-Net's Strategic Litigation Working Group (SLWG) sent a letter to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) to support the application of one of the Commission's Rules of Procedure regarding the Endorois Welfare Council in Kenya. 

The letter, signed by all members of the Working Group, reiterates support of a request made by Minority Rights Group International and the Centre for Minority Rights for the application of Rule 112(8) by the ACHPR, regarding follow-up on the recommendations of the Commission in Communication n276/2003, on behalf of the Endorois Welfare Council v. Kenya. 

The Working Group encouraged the Commission to invite the Sub-Committee of the Permanent Representatives Committee and the Executive Council to require the Kenyan government to adopt a detailed roadmap in close consultation with the Endorois, establishing a reasonable timeframe for the implementation of each of the Commission's recommendations on the Endorois case

The implementation of recommendations issued by the ACHPR in the Endorois case could advance, as the SLWG highlighted, indigenous peoples' rights in Africa, as well as globally. 

Please read the letter here

Background

In the 1970s, the Kenyan government evicted hundreds of Endorois families from their land around the Lake Bogoria area in the Rift Valley to create a game reserve for tourism. The Endorois, a pastoralist community, had been promised compensation and benefits by the Kenyan government, but these orders were never fully implemented, and the community's access to the land was restricted to areas allowed based on the discretion of the Game Reserve Authority. This prevented the community from practicing their pastoralist way of life, using ceremonial and religious sites, and accessing traditional medicines. The Centre for Minority Rights Development (CEMIRIDE), and MRG International submitted a claim before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on behalf of the EWC in 2003.

In 2010, the African Commission ruled that the Kenyan government had violated the Endorois' rights to religious practice, to property, to culture, to the free disposition of natural resources, and to development, under the African Charter (Articles 8, 14, 17, 21 and 22, respectively). The Commission also established that the government should restitute the Endorois ancestral lands, ensure unrestricted access to Lake Bogoria, pay adequate compensation for all losses suffered, pay royalties regarding existing economic activities, and engage in dialogue with the complainants.  Six years later, the decision still remains to be implemented by the Kenyan government. 

Since 2012, the International Network on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, with the lead of its members MRG International (also the Endorois main legal representatives), CEMIRIDE, Dejusticia (Colombia), Hakijamii (Kenya), KHRC (Kenya), KLA (Kenya), and SERI-SA (South Africa), among others, joined EWC to advocate for the implementation of the African Commission’s ruling:

  • In 2012, a strategic meeting was held with the EWC to discuss implementation.
  • In 2013, 2014 and 2015, ESCR-Net members (MRG International, Dejusticia, KLA, KHRC, CEMIRIDE, and others) and members of the ESCR-Net secretariat collaborated with EWC to hold workshops on land restitution, compensation, and registration.
  • In the last years, members and ESCR-Net secretariat staff conducted surveys on immaterial losses suffered by the Endorois community. Moreover, key Kenyan member organizations, such as KHRC and KLA, have engaged with different governmental agencies in order to create opportunities for more meaningful dialogue between the Endorois and the Kenyan government.   
  • In September 2014, the Kenyan government created the task force for the implementation of the ACHPR’s recommendations with a one-year mandate. The task force was a step forward but it has given rise to some concerns, as identified by ESCR-Net member organizations involved in the implementation of the recommendations: (i) the Endorois were not consulted about the establishment of the task force itself, it has no requirement of consultation with the Endorois Welfare Council or any Endorois representative, nor is there Endorois representation on the task force itself ; (ii) it is composed solely of government officials, and (iii) it was created to ‘study the Decision’, ‘provide guidance on the political, security and economic implications of the Decision’ and to ‘examine the potential environmental impacts on Lake Bogoria and the surrounding area because of the implementation’. On October 23, 2014, Kenyan member organizations EWC, KHRC, and KLA, as well as international partners, Professor Hansungule (based in South Africa), MRG International, Dejusticia (based in Colombia), and the ESCR-Net secretariat, joined a first meeting of the Task Force created by the Kenyan government to address these concerns. As of August 2016, the mandate of the Task Force had not been renewed.
  • In November 2015, EWC was represented by Christine Kandie at the 57th Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), which was held in Banjul, The Gambia. Kandie highlighted the ACHPR’s 2010 decision regarding the restitution of the Endorois’s lands and stressed that the Kenyan government should take more concrete steps towards implementation.
  • EWC has conducted periodic meetings to assess possibilities for further implementation with the participation of the Endorois community, including Endorois women.

ESCR-Net SLWG and WESCR plan to stay engaged in this effort to include women in the implementation of the Endorois ruling, both to strengthen the chances of implementation and to further protect women’s rights. Next steps will include the organization of a new workshop in 2017, where specific discussions on political participation in the EWC, economic independence, and inequalities among the women will be addressed.

Photo credit: Minority Rights Group International