Kenya: EU Suspends U.S.$35 Million Funding to Kenya Over Herders Eviction

The European Union has suspended $35 million funding for a water tower conservation programme following death of a herder in forceful eviction of the Sengwer, a tribe living in Embobut forest in western Kenya.

Kenya Forest Service (KFS) guards are said to have used excessive force during the evictions intended to pave the way for the European Union-funded project seeking to protect water catchment areas in the region.

The EU had warned the government that continued use of force by KFS against innocent locals would lead to suspension of its financial support for conservation work on the country's water towers.

"Accordingly, we are now suspending the support to the Water Towers Programme with the Government of Kenya," said Stephano Dejak, head of EU delegation in Kenya.

On Monday, United Nations experts called on Kenyan authorities to halt the fresh wave of forceful evictions of the Sengwer that started late December.

The UN noted more than 100 armed forest service guards had invaded traditional lands of the Sengwer in the Embobut forest, firing gunshots, burning at least 15 homes and killing their livestock.

The UN experts recommended that the EU suspends funding of the Water Towers Protection and Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation launched in mid-2016.

The six-year programme seeks to end poverty through enhancing the productivity of ecosystem services in two of Kenya's five water towers - Mt Elgon and Cherangany and its ecosystems covering eleven counties in western Kenya.

The Sengwer hunter-gatherers have for five decades fought with the government for the right to live in the Embobut forest in the Cherengany Hills from where they were first evicted by British colonialists in the 19th century.

The community is reported to have moved back into the forest after they were evicted and compensated in 2014.

"The EU insists on full respect for the rights of indigenous people, and the conservation work on the water towers was never expected to involve any evictions or use of violence," said Mr Dejak.

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