Centre for Minority Rights Development (Kenya), et al. on behalf of Endorois Welfare Council v. Kenya

Centre for Minority Rights Development (Kenya), et al. on behalf of Endorois Welfare Council v. Kenya, Afr. Comm'n Human & Peoples' Rights, Comm. No. 276/2003 (2010).
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Country: Kenya
Region: Africa
Year: 2010
Court: African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

Representatives of the complainants, the Endorois indigenous community, brought an action before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Commission), alleging violations of human rights resulting from the Government of Kenya’s forced displacement of the Endorois from their ancestral lands without adequate compensation, in breach of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The Endorois stated that their ancestral lands provided fertile pastures and medicinal salt licks, which helped raise healthy cattle. Furthermore, they claimed that their lands were essential to their community’s health, livelihood, religion, and culture because the land contained sacred religious sites and traditional medicine plants. Finally, the community alleged that Kenya conceded their ancestral lands to a private mining company in 2002 without compensation to their community. According to the Endorois, this created a high risk of polluting their water sources. Therefore, the Endorois community argued that Kenya had infringed their right to property, violated their right to practice religion and culture, disrupted their pastoral way of life, breached their access to natural resources and their right to development, as enshrined in Articles 14, 8, 17, 21 and 22, respectively, of the African Charter.

The Respondent State argued that, according to a national declaration signed in 1973, the Endorois community no longer owned the land in dispute. Further, Kenya stated that they had resettled the majority of the Endorois community with financial compensation following the national declaration and had developed universal free primary education and an agricultural recovery program for the community. Finally, they alleged that the Endorois community was not a distinct community in need of special protection.

The African Commission for Human and Peoples' Rights first determined that the Endorois was an indigenous community entitled to the protection of the African Charter. Subsequently, the Commission found that the Respondent State was in violation of all the human rights stated in the petitions submitted by the complainants, including the right to property, the freedom of religion, the right to pastoral way of life and the right to development.

Specifically, the Commission observed that the forced displacement of the Endorois without access to salt licks and other vital resources for the health of their livestock was a breach of the Endorois pastoral way of life in violation of the right to culture enshrined in Article 17 of the African Charter. Further, the Commission held that the Respondent State had made it difficult for the Endorois community to access plants used for traditional medicine, which were essential to maintain a healthy life, which constituted a breach of the right to development, as enshrined in Article 22 of the African Charter.

The Commission recommended that the Respondent State recognize rights of ownership to the Endorois and provide adequate restitution for their ancestral lands.

"The Complainants claim that the Endorois health, livelihood, religion and culture are all intimately connected with their traditional land, as grazing lands, sacred religious sites and plants used for traditional medicine are all situated around the shores of Lake Bogoria." Page 4, paragraph 16.

"By forcing the community to live on semi-arid lands without access to medicinal salt licks and other vital resources for the health of their livestock, the Respondent State have created a major threat to the Endorois pastoralist way of life." Page 66, paragraph 251.

"The principal human rights effects of these projects for indigenous peoples relate to loss of traditional territories and land, eviction, migration and eventual resettlement, depletion of resources necessary for physical and cultural survival, destruction and pollution of the traditional environment, social and community disorganization, long-term negative health and nutritional impacts as well as, in some cases, harassment and violence." Page 77, paragraph 293.