The Plight of Sengwer People in Kenya

Nnimmo Bassey

Human rights activists globally are up against the World Bank-funded programme on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, REDD, which is forcefully displacing the people of Sengwer community in Nairobi, Kenya

|  By Maureen Chigbo  |  Mar. 24, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

THE plight of the Sengwer Indigenous people in Nairobi, Kenya, is attracting the attention of human rights activist groups globally. The No REDD in Africa Network, NRAN, and hundreds of international allies have strongly condemned the massive evictions and forced relocation of the people. The groups have also criticised the World Bank-funded programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, REDD, which it described as a land-grabbing forest offset scam, in Kenya’s Cherangany Hills. The REDD is a highly controversial emissions reduction scheme that uses forests, plantations and lands in the Global South as carbon offsets and supposed sponges of carbon emissions and fossil fuel pollution from the Global North.

NRAN together with 65 organisations and renowned human rights activists are alarmed at the obvious connection between these evictions and the World Bank’s funding of the Kenyan government’s REDD ‘readiness’ programme in the Cherangany Hills through the bank’s Natural Resource Management project. NRAN is also specifically calling for the creation of an international truth commission on the forced relocation of the Sengwer People and abuses associated with the REDD and carbon offsets throughout the world.

In an open letter to the United Nations and the Kenyan government, the No REDD in Africa Network, stated that: “the forced relocation of the Sengwer People proves the urgency of canceling REDD. We take great exception to the press statement issued by the World Bank in which it attempts to distance itself from this forced relocation of the Sengwer People.  The cause and effect is perfectly clear; the Bank in its highly controversial role as both carbon credit financier and broker is aiding and abetting the forced relocation of an entire Indigenous People through its Natural Resource Management Plan, NRMP, which includes REDD, in the region.”

“The denial of complicity by the World Bank in the forced eviction of the Sengwer people from their forests is ludicrous,” Nnimmo Bassey, founder of Health of Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF, in Nigeria and former chair, Friends of the Earth International, said, adding: “We will not be fooled as the fingers of international financial institutions, IFI’s, like the World Bank and other carbon cowboys are clearly visible in the unrepentant push of neoliberal agenda to exploit, despoil and displace poor communities and grab their resources including carbon. This nonsense must stop.”

Anabela Lemos, founder and director of Justiça Ambiental, Mozambique said that the Maputo Declaration (2013), had already predicted that the REDD-type projects would lead to displacement of forest-dependent communities, servitude, killings, repression and other human rights abuses, as being experienced by the Sengwer People. “It is a clear example of what we condemn and why there must be no REDD in Africa,” Lemos said.

“We demand that the government of Kenya recognise and promote the kind of conservation practiced by the Sengwer and other forest peoples, that has clearly shown that forest ecosystems, protected areas and other natural resources are well protected when the rights of forest indigenous communities are recognized,” Yator Kitum, a spokesperson of the Sengwer people, said.

In the same vein, Ruth Nyambura, advocacy and communications coordinator at the African Biodiversity Network in Nairobi, said: “We are demanding that the Kenyan government immediately stop the evictions and provide reparations to the Sengwer people, in addition to providing a formal apology recognising their rights.” She also called on the UN and African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to respond to the demands and requests of the affected people.

The No REDD in Africa Network has repeatedly warned that the scale of REDD-related land grabs in Africa could be so massive that they may eventually constitute a “continent grab.”

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