Probe launched over death of Sengwer community member

January 18, 2018 4:26 pm
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The Sengwer community representatives bringing to light their plight faced with forceful eviction/FILE

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 18- The Government is probing the killing of a Sengwer community member that led to the suspension of the European Union-funded Sh3.6 billion Water Towers Protection and Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Programme by officers drawn from the Kenya Wildlife Service.

National Government spokesman Eric Kiraithe says any officer who will be found culpable for murder will be charged in a court of law.

“Proper action will be taken, and the public will be able to get information on what exactly transpired,” he asserted.

Before its suspension, the programme sought to protect the ground supplies of water, which are known as water towers, in the Mount Elgon and the Cherangany Hills areas, but locals have incessantly protested attempts to be forcefully evicted from their ancestral land.

The EU has committed to initiate consultations with all stakeholders, to ensure the community is involved in any conservation efforts, without changing their way of life

“If there is criminal liability, the individual responsible will take it. It is very well covered in our laws,” he said.

During the Tuesday’s killing, another person sustained serious injuries.
It is a win for the Sengwer community after a year of anxiety.

Both local and international rights groups have piled pressure on the EU leading to the cancellation.

On Monday, three independent experts appointed by the United Nations have expressed concerns about recent reports that indigenous Sengwer people in western Kenya have been attacked and forcibly evicted from their homes.

The forceful evictions were meant to pave way for the implementation of the Water Towers Protection and Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation project.

– Cases of human rights abuses –

On January 16, a community member was shot dead by Kenya Wildlife Service officers.

On 25 December 2017, more than 100 armed Forest Service guards entered the traditional lands of the Sengwer in the Embobut Forest, firing gunshots, burning at least 15 homes and killing their livestock.

On 9 January 2018, one of the Sengwer leaders was shot at by Kenya Forest Service guards.

While he managed to escape unhurt, his house was burnt down and his property destroyed.

In June 2016, the EU and the Kenyan government launched the Water Towers Protection and Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation (WaTER) project worth some Sh3.1 billion.

In May last year, the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights ruled that the government violated the rights of the indigenous Ogiek people living in Mau forest, draws inspiration from, saying it set a precedent on why evicting such people not only violates their human rights but leaves their forests vulnerable to destruction.

The Sengwer are one of the last remaining forest-dwelling people in the country.

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