The Ogiek are hunter- gatherers and depends so much on forest space for the exercise of their traditional livelihoods and preservation of their culture. Collection of wild fruits, hunting, honey harvesting were a daily routine. The Ogiek had maintained their traditional knowledge systems in conservation of the Mau Forest resources. The elders had a sound management plan that ensured these forests remained intact.
Ogiek land rights struggles began during the Colonial period. The Ogiek community have suffered dispossession of their ancestral land without their consent and without the provision of compensation. This loss of land occurred because of agricultural expansion, introduction of exotic plants, logging, and other development activities which have led to an increasing inability of the community to practice their traditional economic activities. Moreover, the Ogiek have lost vast amounts of their traditional lands to state-sponsored conservation efforts, which has resulted in the eviction of Ogiek communities from their ancestral lands and the denial of access to the forest resources upon which they depend for their survival.
Due to these violations, the Ogiek have resorted to the Court severally to stop the loss of their ancestral land with no success. In 2009 the government of Kenya issued an eviction notice to the Ogiek giving them fourteen days to vacate the Mau Forest area. This prompted the Ogiek community to seek for justice at the regional level. OPDP, MRG and CEMIRIDE lodge a case before the African Commission which alleged the violations of the following Ogiek rights:- Natural resources, development, religion, property and culture.
After the commission received the communication for the Ogiek community, they issued provisional measures requiring the government of Kenya to stop any further evictions or change of status of land in Mau forest that could prejudice the Ogiek case.The Ogiek Litigation at the African Commission received a boost when the commission issued provisional measures pending determination of the case by the Commission.
Due to the government failure to comply with the provisional measures issued by the Commission, the case was referred to the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights by the Commission based in Arusha, Tanzania. The Commission considers that the material presented portrays a very serious situation which needs urgent consideration. This is the first indigenous peoples case filled before the African Court. Unlike the African Commission, the African Court has the power to issue binding legal judgments on state, has clear rules of procedure and offers a normal court process whereby there are public hearings. The Ogiek case was scheduled to be heard before the African Court in March 2014 but the Kenyan Government requested for extension to submit their merits. The first hearing of the Ogiek case was then postponed to November, 2014 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Those who attended were community representatives, Ogiek Lawyer, Ogiek Expert witness, Commission, Kenya State representative and the Judges.For more details on the case please click here