Native people are being displaced in Kenya to make way for a conservation project.
The land is owned by former Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi and is known for its links to Prince William and Kate Middleton’s engagement on a safari ranch in the area.
The indigenous peoples’ NGO Survival International contend that the Samburu are being brutally evicted, with villages being burned, killing and stealing of their animals and assaults on men, women and children. Survival International has recently received reports of an elder being shot ‘in cold blood.’
At least 2,000 Samburu families now live in makeshift squats on the edge of the land and 1,000 others have been forced to relocate entirely.
Conditions are appalling, and resources scarce. A Channel 4 documentary (see below) caught on camera the extreme nature of these evictions in the Eland Downs area of North-East Kenya.
Jo Woodman, a campaigner for Survival, said they suffered constant harassment from police with women allegedly raped, animals seized and an elder shot.
“There has been an ongoing, constant level of fear, intimidation and violence towards the community, which has been devastating,” Woodman said.
Following waves of violence from the police, the Samburu began legal proceedings against AWF and ex-President Moi, to plead for their rights to the land. A subsequent court demand for no further harassment of the Samburu has been ignored. Survival has recently received reports that women and children have been sleeping in the bush, despite heavy rains, terrified of police violence.
Although the case is still underway, AWF has recently gave the land to the Kenyan government in a move described by the Samburu as an “affront to the justice system.”
The Minister for Forestry and Wildlife said in Parliament, “this piece of land was donated to us … we accepted the donation. This is in keeping with the need to preserve our wildlife which is an economic cash cow to us.”
Lawyer Korir Sing’Oei told the Guardian that a local court had confirmed that the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) had secured registration of the land.
“The court has turned a blind eye to the pleas of the Samburu community and allowed these illegalities to subsist,” he said. “The transfer [of the land to the KWS] is totally unlawful and it’s in flagrant violation of the interests of the Samburu community.”
The land supports a wide variety of species, including rare zebras and black rhinos, and the head of AWF has described Laikipia’s protection as the perfect way to “stimulate tourism.”
One community leader said AWF’s actions go “against the very interests of Kenya’s children” who, Survival International say, remain the best wildlife conservationists.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said:
That the Samburu have been driven from their homes in the name of conservation should be vigorously opposed by all who believe in fairness and justice. They simply want to live on and protect this land.
Survival has written to the UN appealing for urgent action to be taken to put an end to the violence and provide assistance to the Samburu.
John Butler, director of marketing for the AWF, told the Guardian:
The African Wildlife Foundation does not condone violence. AWF has a longstanding history of working closely with local communities to ensure that conservation solutions benefit both people and wildlife. Unfortunately, we cannot comment at length on this issue due to a pending court case in Kenya.
Korir Sing’Oei said:
Given the powerful actors who have vested interests in the land, this issue has been really hushed up in the local media.
Watch: Clip from ‘Conservation’s Dirty Secrets.’
Picture: Survival International