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Kenya – Pastoralist Land Dispute

Incidents of violence involving herders highlight the increasingly precarious situation faced by pastoralists. 

A recent upsurge in attacks by herders on white-owned ranches and wildlife conservancies in Laikipia has led to an outcry, with some describing the pastoralist herders as primitive with no respect for private property or wildlife.

According to the Independent around 10,000 nomadic herders with around 135,000 cattle have invaded ranches and conservancies in Laikipia over the last four months.

In Kenya the white-owned ranches have full support of the government and many are funded by influential donors through the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT), controlling around 10.8 million acres of land; around 8% of Kenya’s total landmass.

In an example of the influential funding support, the Tullow Oil Company from Turkana County has donated US$11.5m to the NRT to establish further conservancies.

According to some commentators the land was acquired with the help of politicians who subsequently have hailed the NRT as a success, protecting both wildlife and the environment.

The CEO of the Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association (KWCA) stated: “Conservancies amidst the increasing complex social and economic pressures, have been used as an avenue to bring together warring communities to co-manage resources, develop enterprises to enhance livelihoods, diversify tourism, secure grass banks for livestock during the dry seasons and create jobs for the local communities.”

However issues relate to pastoralists not being able to use the land during drought periods, when water is scarce. According to journalist John Mbaria, as the conservancies are United Nations (UN) protected, they are largely insulated from public scrutiny, reported the Daily Nation

The conflict also has highlighted prevalent attitudes towards pastoralists, who are perceived as damaging to the environment. Such a perspective ignores the fact that for centuries herders such as the Maasai and Samburu have lived relatively harmoniously with wildlife.


Herder in Samburu County – CC 2014

In the colonial period settlers turned Kenya into a hunting ground, while after independence and the ban on poaching, settlers needed to justify their ownership of property and thus established wildlife conservancies. Much of the land dates back to the 1904 Anglo-Maasai Agreement when locals “willingly” gave their land in the Central Rift Valley, according to the Daily Nation

Attempts by pastoralists to reclaim land have largely failed. In 2004 herders who drove their cattle into a ranch in Laikipia, were shot at by the police.

A British-Kenyan rancher, Matthew Voorspuy was shot dead while riding to inspect cottages that had been torched on his land earlier in March; a Kenyan politician Matthew Lempurkel was arrested and later bailed in connection to the incident.

In Kom, Isiolo County, a clash between armed herders from Isiolo and those from Samburu led to the deaths of ten people. Reports suggested that the Isiolo herders attacked the Samburu after they entered their grazing areas without permission, reported the East African.

On March 20th the Daily Nation reported that two people were killed in Baragoi after clashes between Samburu and Turkana communities, after four cows and around 300 goats were reportedly stolen from the Samburu.

The situation also highlights the precarious situation of pastoralists, caught between state repression, communal infighting and persistent drought. According to the Kenya Land Alliance (KLA), more than 65% of the arable land in the country is in the hands of 20% of the population.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

KENYA – UK: Reparations Claim [Free to Read]
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 12, Pp. 21271B–21272C

CONSERVATION: Kenya
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 3, Pp. 20948A–20948B

KENYA: Deadly Attacks
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 51, Issue. 11, Pp. 20358C–20360A

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today. 

DR Congo – Indigenous Land Crisis

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Bambuti people face conflicts with rebel groups, extractive industries and conservation initiatives, loosing large swathes of land.

Idjwi island, situated in the middle of Lake Kivu, has for the large part been spared from the violence that has persisted across DR Congo. However the ‘indigenous’ Bambuti are being pushed aside for the ethnic Bantu who now comprise around 95% of the islands population of 280,000.

The process started in the 1980s as the authority figures for the Bahayu Bantu people expelled the Bambuti from the forests and deprived them of their primary means of livelihood and subsistence. These groups, like many others who are facing similar struggles worldwide, are largely hunter gatherers and practice shifting cultivation with no formal land titles.

The chief of the Idjwi Bambuti, Charles Livingstone, said “we are no more than 7000 on the island, relocated on uncultivable land and scattered on the coast in makeshift camps on the fringe of villages, in total destitution,” reported UK-based the Independent.

Adolphine Byaywuwa Muley, the head of a Bambuti women empowerment group said that South Kivu is a “province where there are a lot of land issues, land disputes everywhere, so you are told nothing can be done.”

However, Gervais Rubenga Ntawenderundi, who is a Bantu customary chief in the north of Idjwi said that there were “no problems on the islands between the two ethnic groups…the pygmies have never been driven out of the forest and have always lived near villages in this way.”

The DR Congo national parliament discussed a law to protect Bambuti rights in 2007 but as of yet there has been no progress or a vote on the proposed bill.

Today, according to the Independent, many Bambuti work for landowners and are treated with contempt, often earning much less than other workers, and have to resort to selling handicrafts to supplement their income.

Some have settled in camps; in Kagorwa camp around 300 were resettled from the Nyamusisi forest, but in their new location crops will not grow and many suffer from malnourishment.

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Displaced Mbuti childrenCC

According to the International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) there are four main groups in DR Congo; the Bambuti (Mbuti), the Baka, the east Batwa and the west Batwa. The label often used to described them collectively, pygmies, is often considered to be discriminatory. Their exact numbers are unknown but are thought to be between 600,000 and 2 million.

Across the country many have lost their land and been taken as bonded labour for Banti landlords, and such dynamics are particularly evident in North Kivu and South Kivu. In the other provinces of Orientale, Equateur and Bandundu, indigenous groups are facing widespread displacement for industrial development.

The forests in DR Congo represent the second largest forest basin in the world, but the same area contains an abundance of mineral resources and the presence of numerous factionalised rebel groups.

“The state is itself a threat to our forests: it makes a complete mess of things by handing out timber licences. It gives them to anyone willing to pay, and we see these people come and cut down our trees with impunity. They cut down our medicinal trees and, with them, the bark and fruits used for our medical treatments. They cut down our caterpillar trees, our oil trees,” said Irangi, who is a member of the Mbuti Pygmies in Itombwe, reported the Guardian.

In 2006 the Congolese government created the Itombwe nature reserve facilitated by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS); all human activity was forbidden in an area over 15,000 square km.

Similarly in Virunga National Park, the oldest in Africa, the Bambuti are forbidden from hunting or living inside the boundaries and are caught between both park rangers and armed groups, reported the Inter Press Service.

In the 1980s in the Kahuzi-Biega national park nearly 6000 indigenous people were moved from their villages and left to make a living outside of the forest. Many of these groups now live in precarious conditions – deprived of traditional livelihood sources and forms of religious and social identity, they often work as manual labourers.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

DR CONGO: Rebel Groups Torment Residents
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Volume. 53, Issue. 10, Pp. 21184A–21184C

DR CONGO: ADF & FDLR Violence
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Volume. 53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21146C–21147B

DR CONGO: Humanitarian Concerns
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Volume 53, Issue. 6, Pp. 21040A–21040C

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today.

Africa – CITES Conservation Conference

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The world’s largest wildlife convention leads to important new provisions for endangered species.

On October 4th the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the world’s largest wildlife meeting, ended after two weeks of talks in Johannesburg, South Africa, in which there was progress in implementing rules on trafficking of endangered species.

During the event around 2,500 delegates made their way through 62 proposals to reform restrictions on the trade of 400 species – 51 were accepted, five rejected and six withdrawn.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said that governments had united behind “tough decisions,” while the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said, “conservation trumped commerce.”

Particular animals discussed included the African grey parrot and African elephants, which saw fierce debate at the convention. All trade of the pangolin – the world’s most heavily trafficked mammal – was also banned. Additionally a bid by Swaziland to be permitted to trade rhino horn was defeated.

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Pangolin – the world’s most trafficked animal – CC

Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe argued against the proposals, claiming that the export of ivory would actually protect elephants in the long run and was necessary to raise money for conservation. Stephen Mwansa, permanent secretary in Zambia’s Tourism Ministry, said, “How do you come and start regulating the domestic market? That will be extra-territorial…That’s arrogance of the highest order. It’s tantamount to neo-colonialism and that we can’t accept it.”

“African elephants are in steep decline across much of the continent due to poaching for their ivory, and opening up any legal trade in ivory would complicate efforts to conserve them,” said Ginette Hemley, the head of the CITES delegation for WWF.

Elephant populations have drastically declined in east and central Africa, with Tanzania estimated to have lost around 60% of its population in the past decade. The number of African elephants has dropped by around 111,000 in the past decade. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) published its ‘African Elephant Status Report‘ during the conference.

Illegal trade in wildlife is valued at around US$20bn a year, according to CITES. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) estimates that between 2.1m and 3.2m African grey parrots were captured between 1975 and 2013.

The negotiations at times exposed bitter divisions, with African nations at one point accusing Western charities of “dictating” how to protect their elephants. However, despite some tensions, the conference produced a number of positive outcomes and provisions to protect some of the world’s most endangered species.

(© AFP 25, 28/9, 4, 5/10 2016; Reuters 3, 4/10)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

CONSERVATION: Kenya
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 3, Pp. 20948A–20948B

CONSERVATION: DR Congo
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 52, Issue. 10, Pp.20767A–20767C

CONSERVATION: Central Africa
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.6, Pp. 20624A–20624C

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today.

Kenya – Conservationists Lament Railway Plans

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The central section of a huge infrastructure project is to cut directly across East Africa’s oldest national park.

The Nairobi National Park, a wildlife reserve housing lions, hyenas and giraffes just 7km from the centre of Nairobi, is currently in the midst of proposed plans to build a Chinese-funded railway across what is the oldest park in East Africa.

The edges of the park have slowly been eaten away by development and expansion, with power lines stretching overland and pipelines underground. New housing estates also obstruct key migration routes for wildlife, which lead to other nature reserves such as the Maasai Mara.

According to head of the Friends of Nairobi National Park, Sidney Kamanzi, in the 1970s and 1980s around 30,000 wildebeest came to the area, now the numbers are in the region of 300.

The proposed railway line is to be elevated across 6km of the park, on pillars between 8m and 40m tall. Conservationists have deplored the plans, calling it a step too far and claiming the consequences will be disastrous.

UK-based BBC News commented that the new railway project could be a new ‘lunatic line,’ referring to thousands of workers who were killed building railways in the country at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries; around 100 people were killed by lions, while a further 4000 died of diseases.

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BBC News 

The railway is part of planned upgrades to the national network linking the Mombasa port to Nairobi and onwards to regional neighbours such as Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan; it is the largest infrastructure project in the country since independence in 1963.

The second stage of construction, from Nairobi to Naivasha – crossing the park – is seen as the most problematic; many had hoped that the railway would skirt around the park, but according to the government the costs of this were just too high.

Works on the elevated sections are scheduled to begin in January 2017 lasting around 18 months, although in stages to avoid cutting off parts of the park completely. However conservationists have deplored the lack of impact study and disregard for the natural environment.

“If the railway (line) is authorised, it could create a precedent that could mean the death of the park,” said Sidney Quntai, who heads the Kenyan Coalition for the Conservation and Management of Fauna.

On October 3rd a group of Maasi women from Oloosirkon, Kitenkela, Emakoko and Embakasi villages presented a petition to President Uhuru Kenyatta. An environmental tribunal in mid-September ruled against the railway line in the national park until a case had been heard, but the government continues to hold public hearings.

“The processions are not against infrastructure projects. We don’t want those that are poorly thought out, environmentally unsound and abuse our natural heritage like having SGR pass through the park,”  one of the protest organisers, Nkamuno Patita, said, reported Kenyan media service, The Star.

Kitili Mbathi, the Director General of Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), tried to reassure protesters who recently delivered a petition; “We will be working with the contractor to make sure the construction will be as least disruptive as possible and as environmentally friendly as possible,” he said.

However, Kenyan economist David Ndii said, “It’s a white elephant – we don’t need it…It’s not necessary, its overpriced. Its the most expensive single project we have done and it’s not economically viable now or in the future,” reported BBC News.

(© AFP 30/9 2016)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

ROADS AND RAILWAYS: Kenya
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue.7, Pp.21362B–21363B

ROADS AND RAILWAYS: Kenya – Uganda
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 6, Pp.21325C–21327A

ROADS AND RAILWAYS: Kenya
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 2, Pp.21181A–21182A

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today.