The indigenous Endorois community has been living near Lake Bogoria in the heart of Kenya’s Rift Valley for as long as can be remembered.
In 1973, the community was forcibly evicted for the creation of a wildlife sanctuary called the Lake Bogoria Game Reserve.
The failure to consult the Endorois, to involve them in the management and benefit-sharing of the reserve, or to compensate them with adequate grazing land to sustain their livestock, rapidly forced them into abject poverty from which they have yet to recover.
In the decades following their eviction, members of the community faced arrest for allegedly 'trespassing' on the reserve for religious and medicinal purposes. Consequently, as in the case of many other indigenous peoples, the severed ties with their ancestral land not only threatened their health and socio-economic well-being, but also their spiritual and cultural survival and their ability to contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of the area’s biodiversity.
In February 2010, the African Union adopted the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ landmark decision finding the expulsion of Endorois from their ancestral lands illegal . The African Commission’s decision created momentous legal precedent.
It represents the first time that an African indigenous people’s rights over traditionally owned land have been legally recognized.
In affirming Endorois’ collective right to ancestral lands, the Commission’s decision has awarded a full remedy to the Endorois community.
The Commission‘s ruling requires the Government of Kenya to take various steps to rectify the position, including ensuring that the Endorois community have unrestricted access to Lake Bogoria and surrounding sites for religious and cultural ceremonies and for grazing their cattle, and paying adequate compensation to the community for all of the loss suffered, which included the loss caused by the Endorois’ inability to enjoy their cultural and religious practices on their ancestral and sacred lands over the past three decades.
In addition, the Commission’s decision requires the Government to grant title to the Endorois to guarantee their permanent use and enjoyment of their lands, as well as to ensure that they can engage with the state and third parties as active stakeholders rather than as passive beneficiaries.
During the process of granting title, the Government must consult with Endorois and other affected communities. To remedy the Government’s failure to obtain the consent of Endorois before conducting development activities on their lands, the Commission ruled that the Government should pay royalties to the Endorois from existing economic activities and ensure that they benefit from employment possibilities within the Reserve.
However, some 4 years after the adoption of the Commission’s ruling, the Kenyan Government has so far failed to implement it.