Forest tribe in danger


Jan 15th, 2002, 06:36 AM
Virginia Luling
Posts: n/a
Forest tribe in danger

Are you going to Kenya - visiting Lake Nakuru or the Maasai Mara ?

Then consider this.

Kenyan government set to destroy honey-hunting tribe

The Kenyan government are defying international law and a ruling by their own High Court by opening up for development a protected area of forest which is home to the Ogiek tribe. Despite threats from local authorities, this week the Ogiek have announced they will take the government officials who are responsible to court.

ÒNo amount of intimidation will deter us from demanding our God-given right within the constitution.Ó Ogiek elder speaking to a local head of government.

Survival, the worldwide organisation supporting tribal peoples, has launched a letter writing campaign in support of the rights of the Ogiek to their land. This hunter-gatherer tribe, who number about 20,000 are famous for collecting honey from beehives which they place in the high branches of the forest trees. The Ogiek have lived since time immemorial in the Mau mountain forest overlooking Kenya's Rift Valley. This is a protected area under Kenya's Forest Act. But now the Kenyan government is planning to open nearly 60,000 hectares of it up to developers such as tea planters and loggers, along with settlers from elsewhere in the country.

International law states that all tribal peoples have the right to own their land. In January the Kenya High Court issued an order halting the opening of 35,000 hectares in East Mau, but the government has ignored this.

Allowing outsiders into the Mau forest is in fact part of a vote-catching scheme to open up around one tenth of Kenya's forests for settlement - the Mau forest makes up a large proportion of the total area being opened up. The tragedy is that if the government's scheme goes ahead, the Ogiek will simply join the numbers of Kenya's dispossessed and die out as a people.

While claiming that the forest needs protection from these hunter gatherers, who have always managed it sustainably, the Kenyan government allows three powerful logging companies to operate within the area.

The plan also threatens Kenya's environment and economy, as the country's most important rivers flow from the Mau forest, and may shrink or dry up with the loss of tree cover. Among the places which may be affected are such favourite tourist destinations as the Maasai Mara and Lake Nakuru, famous for its flamingos.

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