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including for failing to follow the procedures laid down in section 117 of the 1969 Constitution, Section 13(2) ofthe repealed Trust Land Act (CAP 288) as well as Section 18 of the repealed Wildlife (Conservation and Management Act) 1985 which required that prior to conversion of the land, the County Council needed to consult the community of the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 26th 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:
- A declaration that the conversion of the suit land into a national reserve vide Gazette Notice No. 88 dated 6th June 2000, was unconstitutional, unlawful and of no legal effect. The land shall revert to the pre 6th June 2000 status.
- 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 4th 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.
For more information please contact
Peter Kitelo | Petitioner | Executive Director | firstname.lastname@example.org
Chepkitale Indigenous People Development Project aims to enhance the protection and promotion of human rights though programs and partnerships that meet our objectives. We serve all regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. For more information, please visit www.chepkitale.org or follow us on Twitter @CIPDPchepkitale