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Current issues

In September 2014, the government established a Task Force to implement the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights regarding forced the eviction of Endorois from the Lake Bogoria National Reserve. This includes the recognition of Endorois ownership of the land, restitution of the land and compensation. However, the Task Force’s terms of reference limited its mandate purely to whether implementation was possible, rather than how to implement the decision; the Endorois were not part of the Task Force and its terms of reference did not require consultation with the community. The Task Force made no meaningful progress during its 12 months’ operation and to date, its mandate has not been extended. Only a small amount (2 million Kenyan shillings or approximately US$20,000) in compensation for bio-enzyme extraction royalties has been paid.

Information Technology in pastoralism

Maasai in Kenya has also suffered serious blows to their culture due to large-scale interventions and expropriation by the government. Hell’s Gate National Park, in the Rift Valley and near Lake Naivasha, is the traditional home of Maasai communities. The area has strong spiritual and cultural significance for the community; nearby Mt. Longonot is central to Maasai traditional religious practices. There has already been displacement of Maasai occurring in the area, but the government’s development of the US$1.39 billion Kenya Electricity Expansion Project (KEEP) led to the further resettlement of approximately 1,200 Maasai. Those affected criticize the fact that the land available for resettlement is much reduced and not suitable for grazing.

The joint financing of the project by the World Bank, European Investment Bank, and other donors, totaling US$330 million in international development assistance, prompted Maasai representatives to lodge an inspection request to engage both the World Bank’s Inspection Panel and the European Investment Bank’s Complaint Mechanism in October 2014. In an unprecedented step, the accountability mechanisms of both organizations undertook a joint investigation into the negative impact of the energy project on Maasai livelihoods and way of life. In July 2015 the report was released, confirming that noncompliance with the World Bank’s Indigenous People’s Policy due to involuntary resettlement and inadequate supervision by the Bank had caused widespread harm. It also concluded that this damage could have been avoided had the project’s implementers engaged in a ‘culturally compatible consultation and decision-making mechanisms’, further involved the community elders in planning and possessed a greater capacity to engage in the Maa language. The World Bank approved an action plan in February 2017 following mediation, although the affected Maasai communities remain very critical about the lack of adequate consultation, compensation and livelihood opportunities in their new location.

A series of rapidly accelerating droughts have left pastoralist communities more and more vulnerable. Pastoralists have also struggled with the risks associated with climate change. Many of these communities are already dealing with the consequences of global warming – but national governments, such as Kenya’s, have yet to identify long-term strategies to help them. Crucially, pastoralist communities need to to be consulted on adaptation processes, and for an end to development policies that push communities to settle in resource-poor areas.

Conflicts over natural resources have increased as communities – particularly pastoralists – compete for diminishing water, pasture and food resources. In 2011 the government declared a national disaster as Kenya suffered the most severe drought in decades, which affected over 5 million people. After three years of poor rains, severe drought returned to Kenya again in early 2017. Another national disaster was declared, with 23 out of 47 counties facing insufficient rainfall. By May 2017, UNICEF was reporting that 2.6 million Kenyans were food insecure. Facing the risk of famine, northern pastoralists were forced to move their livestock in search of grazing and water. During the first months of 2017, tensions and conflict arose, especially in Laikipia, as pastoralists encroached upon private lands. By April 2017, at least 14 people had been killed in incidents in Laikipia which drew attention to the underlying issue of land inequality whereby large tracts are owned by the expatriate community. Local politicians were accused of fomenting violence in the lead-up to forthcoming elections. The government was also criticized for adding to the tensions when it sent in the military in March. In neighbouring Baringo County, attacks by armed groups during spring 2017 targeted indigenous women and children. According to local indigenous community leaders, seven indigenous children and two indigenous women were killed in an incident at a school where they had taken shelter. At least two Endorois women were badly wounded in attacks, and many have been displaced. In March 2017, the Kenya National Human Rights Commission estimated that the conflict in Baringo County had led to at least 10,000 displaced.