NGOs force EA govts to stop evictions

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By PAUL REDFERN Special Correspondent

posted  Saturday, February 22  2014 at  16:13

Pressure from a number of non governmental organisations has led to a rethink on two controversial resettlement programmes in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Last week, the World Bank issued a statement following allegations that it was supporting a forced resettlement programme of the Sengwer people from the Embobut Forest in Kenya.

Around the same time the, US Congress said it would not allow its financial support to USAid to be used to force the removal of local people from the Lower Omo Valley.

The Sengwer, one of the few remaining hunter-gatherer peoples in East Africa, are being forcibly evicted from their land by guards from the Kenya Forest Service, with alleged support from the Kenya Police General Service Unit and the World Bank.

Despite a court injunction forbidding the eviction, the removals are continuing to take place prompting the World Bank to issue a statement in which it said that it was “alarmed by reports of recently evicted families in the Embobut Forest and Cherangany Hills of Kenya.

“We understand that underlying this issue is a critical effort to protect watersheds in Kenya’s forest and hill areas. However, we strongly encourage the Kenyan authorities to investigate claims made by civil society, including the affected communities, that the evictions are not following the legal process.

“The World Bank is not involved in the reported evictions, nor has the Bank financed or supported these actions. Nevertheless, we are not bystanders.

“The World Bank Group works closely with the government of Kenya to support its efforts to improve the lives of all Kenyans. On that basis, we will intensify discussions with all parties involved, including the government and civil society. Far too often, the voices of the poor and disenfranchised around the world are not heard. The cases of the people in the affected communities in Kenya should be urgently evaluated in a fair and transparent manner.”

The problems have been going on since 2007, when the World Bank began disbursing funds to the Kenya Forest Service for a Natural Resource Management Project (NRMP).

Acting in the name of protecting the forest and safeguarding urban water supplies, the Kenya Forest Service is alleged to have set fire to Sengwer homes and food stocks almost every year. The current evictions are taking place under the same banner.

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