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State of the World's Minorities 2006 - Kenya

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 22 December 2005
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities 2006 - Kenya, 22 December 2005, available at: [accessed 24 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The Kenyan government has reneged on previous promises and removed all references to marginalized groups, minorities, pastoralists and hunter-gatherers from the proposed new Kenyan constitution document to be voted on in November 2005. A statement from MRG on 6 August 2005 revealed that important gains for Kenya's poorest and most vulnerable peoples achieved during a three-year constitutional review process have now been stripped from the document, leaving them furious and betrayed. Representatives of minority and marginalized groups called for the reinstatement of important provisions and warned that they would refuse to be governed by the present constitution if enacted.

In July 2005 unrest flared in Nairobi when parliament amended the draft document to ensure that extensive executive powers remained in the hands of President Mwai Kibaki. Kenyan human rights groups see this as undermining the pursuit of equality, social justice and participatory democracy. References to minority and indigenous groups have been removed from provisions that had previously satisfied their demands for recognition of their identity and rights in chapters on values and principles of nationhood, a bill of rights, representation of the people, and devolution of power. The Centre for Minority Rights and Development (CEMIRIDE) had previously welcomed provisions that, if implemented, would have promoted their rights, including through affirmative action programmes. Land rights protection and clear anti-discrimination provisions allowing full participation in public, economic and social affairs have all been removed, despite previous guarantees.

A joint statement signed by representatives of Kenya's minorities and marginalized groups stated:

'While a good constitution should be a bastion for the marginalized, vulnerable and the weak, this proposed new constitution ensures that the lot of the poor remains unrecognized and further exposed to the whims and machinations of the mighty.'

Risks and threats

A 2005 report by MRG and CEMIRIDE, Kenya, Minorities, Indigenous Peoples and Ethnic Diversity, demonstrated growing inequalities between communities and the intolerable situation faced by some communities, including the Turkana, the Endorois and the Ogiek. The total development budget for famine-hit Turkana in 2004–5 was 94.6 million Kenyan Shillings, less than one-sixth of the budget for the relatively prosperous and famine-free Nyeri district (689.69 million Kenyan Shillings), the home district of the Kenyan president. In Turkana district, 159 children per 1,000 die in infancy compared to a national average of under 100 per 1,000, and there is only one medical doctor for a community of over 180,000 people. Muslims have been labelled as 'terrorists' and face restrictions on their religious freedoms and other rights. Several Muslim NGOs have been banned and many live in the most famine-affected provinces where they face poverty and insecurity.

Land ownership issues in the Rift Valley have remained unresolved since colonial times, when pastoral groups such as the Maasai and Kalenjin were ousted to make way for British settlers. The Maasai are seeking to regain land given to settlers in 1904 and 1911, a move which has met with an aggressive response from the government. In August 2004 Kenyan riot police used tear gas to disperse more than 100 Maasai protesters in the capital, Nairobi. The Kenyan police said they used force because the protest was illegal. The Maasai are demanding the return of farmland leased to British settlers 100 years ago. The original lease expired on 15 August 2004 on 1 million hectares of land, but the government refuses to recognize the colonial-era agreement.

Legal cases

A case brought before the African Commission for Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) by the Endorois people of Kenya over their eviction from their ancestral lands was declared admissible in May 2005. The Commission will now make a judgment on the merits of the case. The Endorois were removed from their lands to create the Lake Bogoria National Park without consultation or compensation, and are now battling for their rights and to save their environment from the effects of recent mining activities. The recent success of the Endorois marks the first time that the Commission has considered the merits of an indigenous land rights case.

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