Trouble in Paradise

This campaign is now closed. Thank you for your support. Watch this space for news of the Endorois community and campaign results.  

The issue

"It looks as if this area has been deserted. You can't see any government, or any police around here. We are relying on God only." Leleito Mursoi, Endorois representative

For over 30 years, the Endorois community has suffered systematic repression by the Kenyan authorities. It began with their eviction from their ancestral lands around Lake Bogoria in the Rift Valley and from the Mochongoi forest on the Laikipia Plains (see map) for the creation of game reserves and for ruby mining and continues today.

To date, the Endorois community has not received adequate compensation for this eviction, nor have they benefited from the proceeds of the reserve. Because they no longer have free access to the lake or land, their property rights have been violated and their spiritual, cultural and economic ties to the land severed. Once able to migrate with the seasons between Lake Bogoria and the Mochongoi forest, the Endorois are now forced to live on a strip of semi-arid land between their two traditional sites with no access to sustain their former cattle rearing and bee-keeping livelihood.

Map showing the location of Endorois homelands in the Rift Valley, Kenya

"A major stumbling block is lack of food, since we have lost all our animals." Tarkok Kipraisi, Endorois representative

Today, the vast majority of the Endorois community live in severe poverty - many can’t afford services or education. They have little or no electricity or running water, are consistently dependent on relief food and must walk long distances to fetch both. They are increasingly unhealthy and unable to gather the barks, roots and leaves that are found around the lake and that they once relied on for medicinal purposes. Women depend on midwives, and the few children who do attend school must walk up to 40 Kms to get there. Endorois cannot worship or conduct religious ceremonies at their sacred sites, or visit the graves of their ancestors.

Rightful Place tells, through the personal stories of members of the Endorois community, of the impact of displacement on individual, identity and community and of the struggle of the Endorois to reclaim their rightful place.

© 2007, Rightful Place is produced by CEMIRIDE and WITNESS in collaboration with Minority Rights Group. View excerpts above (02:42 mins) or click here for the full version (16:19 mins)

Promises broken

Endorois woman
Endorois woman

The eviction of the Endorois people by the Kenyan government and the ‘gazetting’ (or public declaration of state ownership) of their land began in 1973 and continued until 1986. The community has consistently suffered violence and threats. The fact that Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi was also their MP during this time was used to further intimidate them. Moi also owns the luxury Lake Bogoria Hotel situated on the game reserve.

Endorois families were promised financial or equivalent land compensation, as well as 25 per cent of the total income from the game reserve. This money was marked to drill water bore holes and dams, build access roads, chemists, hospitals and schools. Little or none of this has happened. Only two cattle dips, (used to kill ticks on the cows’ hides) promised by the government have been built. The community maintains it needs 20 dips to adequately protect the herd.

In 1989, after a decade of pleas from the community, parts of the Mochongoi forest were de-gazetted and families given informal permission to return. But even as they did so they were beaten, sprayed with tear gas, forcibly evicted, arrested for trespassing and their homes were burned.

Court action so far

Endorois are a community of approximately 60 000 indigenous nomadic Pastoralists who have practiced a sustainable way of life on the shores of Lake Bogoria and in the Monchongoi forest for centuries. They assert their right to the land as a collective and not as individuals, and are seen by many to be the trustees of the land for future generations.

Endorois man
Endorois man
© Witness

In 1998, the Centre for Minority Development (CEMIRIDE), a Kenyan based NGO, supported by MRG, began a challenge to the eviction through the Kenyan courts. In 2000, the community argued that in the creation of the Lake Bogoria game reserve, the County Council had breached Kenyan Trust Land law which states that Lake Bogoria and its surrounds are designated land to be held for the benefit of the community by local authorities. The High Court of Kenya in Nakuru ruled against the community. It refused to acknowledge the Endorois claim to collective ownership of the land by referring to the people as individuals with no proper identity. The court also stated that it did not believe Kenyan law should uphold a people’s ownership of land based on historic occupation or cultural rights.

The Endorois community has since become aware that parts of the Mochongoi Forest have been sold to third parties by the Kenyan authorities. Without consultation with the community, the authorities began ruby mining on the land the Endorois has been forced on to. Begun in 2003, these activities have contaminated the sole water source for most Endorois and have desecrated some Endorois graves.

Endorois traditional dance
Endorois traditional dance

The community took its case to the African Commission on Human People’s Rights (ACPHR) in 2003. Based in the Gambia, this legal body monitors the implementation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, a landmark human rights treaty which came into force in 1986 and was ratified by Kenya in 1992. In its treatment of the Endorois community, the Kenyan government has violated property rights, the right to manage and benefit from natural resources, to practice religion, to cultural life and to development as well as Kenyan national law and constitutional provisions. In 2005, the ACHPR finally made a commitment to issue and monitor ‘urgent action measures’ to protect the community and its land from irreparable harm caused by mining. In June 2006, local officials tested Endorois’ drinking water sources and found they were poisonously contaminated as a result of ruby mining. Mining has now stopped until the case is resolved. A final decision from the ACHPR is awaited for mid 2009.

Who is affected?

Wilson Kipkazi, Endorois Welfare Council
"2006 was the first year we received proceeds from tourism. We are supposed to earn 10%, but we only get 4% (about 250,000 Kenyan Shillings per year). That's because 6% goes for the upkeep of the roads and the infrastructure."
Wilson Kipkazi, Endorois Welfare Council

When tourists flock to one of the most beautiful game reserves in Kenya, source of a natural hot spring and safe haven for endangered animals, they have little idea of the high cost Endorois continue to pay. Endorois are the most suitable protectors of this land and yet they have not even been allowed to seek work on the game reserve.

MRG believes that the Endorois community has clear rights to live on their ancestral lands, participate in their governance, and that at the very least should be able to fully benefit from the lucrative tourist industry being conducted by the Kenyan government on their one-time home. By not protecting their traditional way of life or ensuring adequate measures of compensation, this community’s very survival is more at risk every day.

Join our Trouble in Paradise campaign and sign the online petition in support of the Endorois.


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