Property rights

Kenya’s forest dwellers fight for dwindling ancestral lands

By Kang-Chun Cheng

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Posted on August 15, 2022 07:53

The Embobut Forest, one of the largest remaining blocks of indigenous woods in East Africa, is replete with natural springs and lush grass. However, even this arcadia is not immune to Kenya’s ongoing battle with forest loss: More than 53 square miles (about 7.4% of Kenya’s land area) of forest cover have disappeared over the past 37 years.

This past June, the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights in Arusha, Tanzania, ruled that the Kenyan government must grant collective land titles to the Ogiek people, and pay reparations for repeatedly evicting the indigenous people from their ancestral Mau Forest.

Brian Rotich, an environmental scientist at Chuka University, believes the landmark case may set a hopeful precedent for other indigenous forest-dwellers across Kenya.

“It will give the Sengwer and Cherangany hope that they too can get a similar ruling in their favour after two previous failed attempts to petition the Kenyan government in claiming the Kapolet and Embobut forests as their ancestral lands, in 2014 and 2019 respectively,” Rotich tells The Africa Report in an interview over email. He says he is “almost certain” that the Arusha court “will be the next stop for the Sengwer community. Whether the Kenyan

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