News: Press Release: Ogiek of Mt Elgon win landmark judgement in 20-year struggle for land rights

27 September, 2022

Peter Kitelo and Others v County Government of Bungoma and Another ELC Bungoma Civil Case No. 10 of 2020 (formerly ELC 109 of 2008)

"We won. I am overwhelmed." - Peter Kitelo, who led on the case for the Ogiek.

The Ogiek of Chepkitale, Mount Elgon, Kenya, have just won their case in the High Court in Bungoma. They brought their case to court in 2008 against the gazettement of the core of their ancestral lands as a game reserve, Chepkitale National Reserve. That gazettement was asked for by the county council, on the advice of IUCN, and forcibly evicted them from lands. They have since returned to their lands, care for them, and have refused to leave despite the force pitted against them.

"The long wait in the pursuit for justice for the Ogiek community of Chepkitale in Mt. Elgon has come to an end," said Kitelo.

"Now is the time for the government of Kenya to support the Ogiek community’s desire to own and sustainably use our lands now and generations to come," he said.

Speaking on the judgement, Chair of the Council of Elders, Chepkitale, Cosmas Murunga, said:

"They wanted to divide us with our lands, our forests and our ancestors."

"Our ancestors have refused and that is why this win looks like a miracle to me."

Read the original article on CIPDP's website

The Mt. Elgon Ogiek community filed this case in the Environment and Land Court in 2008 to challenge the then Mt. Elgon County Council’s decision to convert part of their ancestral lands, that is the North Kavirondo Native Land (ii) (Chepkitale Trust Land), into Chepkitale National Reserve through Legal Notice No. 88 of 2000. The community claimed that the conversion of the Trust Land was unconstitutional and unlawful, including for failing to follow the procedures laid down in section 117 of the1969 Constitution, Section 13(2) of the repealed Trust Land Act (CAP 288) as well as Section 18 of the repealed Wildlife (Conservation and Management Act) 1985 which required that prior to conversion of the land, the County Council needed to consult the community of the proposals to set apart the land or any meetings at the Divisional Board. They also state that they never participated in any meetings at the Divisional Board where they provided their representations on whether the land should be set apart or not. Finally, the land was converted without even providing compensation as required under the law.

In a judgment delivered electronically on 26 September, 2022, Hon. Justice Olao made findings that Chepkitale National Reserve was previously a Trust Land held in trust by Mt. Elgon County Council in trust for the Ogiek Community; the law was not followed in setting apart and conversion of the Trust Land; and considering the conversion was to establish a protected area there was no Environmental Impact Assessment Report which was undertaken. Based on this the Court gave the following orders:

1. A declaration that the conversion of the suit land into a national reserve vide Gazette Notice No. 88 dated 6 June, 2000, was unconstitutional, unlawful and of no legal effect. The land shall revert to the pre 6 June, 2000 status.
2. The defendants shall meet the costs for the plaintiffs.

Part of the evidence considered by the court was a Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources commissioned report, dated 4 November, 2013. The judgment refers to the report recommending that “Chepkitale reverts back to its original status of a Community Trust Land as pilot of community government partnership in natural resource protection, management and conservation”. The report itself concluded that the presence of the Ogiek community of Chepkitale on their land plays a key role in protecting the elephants and other key species, as well as in protecting and regenerating their indigenous forest.

This case marks the end of the Mt. Elgon Ogiek community’s 22-year struggle to reclaim back part of their ancestral lands that were unlawfully and unconstitutionally converted by the then Mt. Elgon County Council and is a positive step to them registering their community land.

Download the full judgement

Post date: 
Tue, 09/27/2022 - 01:00