EU suspends USD35 Million water project in Kenya over human rights violations

The project seeks to protect water catchment areas in the Western areas of Kenya.

This follows the death of a herder in forceful eviction of the Sengwer community by the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) guards in Kapkok Glade, Marakwet.

The Sh3.6 billion ($35 million) European Union-funded project seeks to protect water catchment areas in Mount Elgon and  Cherangani Hills areas of Kenya.

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.

He noted that the conservation work on the water towers was never expected to involve any evictions or use of violence.

"EU staff have been following up on reports, which began more than a year ago, concerning abuses of indigenous people's rights in the conservation areas, as there were claims that these were linked to the EU's support," he said.

Launched in June 2016, the project is dubbed the Water Towers Protection and Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Programme.

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.

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