Forest dwellers hit Nairobi streets, oppose eviction

NAIROBI, Kenya

Dressed in animal hides, leaves, creamy white sisal fiber shirts and supporting headgear made of feathers, hundreds of indigenous Sengwer tribe members on Monday, hit streets in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, protesting against eviction from their ancestral lands.

Living in Embobut forest of Kenya, Sengwer are believed to be the last remaining forest-dwelling people in the country. According to Amnesty International figures, total number of the community was around 50,000.

On Monday, they marched on busy streets of the Nairobi after trekking 400 kilometers from Embobut forest located in western Kenya’s Elgeyo-Marakwet County, to the capital Nairobi to draw attention to their plight.

“We are here to submit a petition to President Uhuru Kenyatta. We want the government to secure Sengwer people in Embobut forest to allow us to live in their ancestral land, without subjecting us to forceful evictions,” Yator Kiptum a senior chief from the Sengwer community council of elders told Anadolu Agency.

“Forceful evictions should stop. We want our people to live inside the forest harmoniously. We have been guardians of the forest, before Kenya was even named Kenya,” he said.

Talking to Anadolu Agency, Amnesty International Kenya’s Executive Director Irungu Houghton said the indigenous community has been living in forests over generations.

“Their land is ancestral. They have been taking care of this forest for centuries. There is a reason why our constitution has provisions, protecting ancestral land and indigenous people. They should not be forced to abandon their ways and assimilate into other people,” he said on the sidelines of the protest march. He said the international human rights watchdog was providing moral support and expressing solidarity with the protesters.

The protests coincided the World Architecture Day, which is stated to reflect the state of human settlements and a basic right to shelter.
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