January 28, 2002
Excisions: US Activists Rally
By KEVIN J.
Support for the Ogiek
ENVIRONMENTAL AND human
rights campaigners in the US are working to rally international
opposition to the planned excision of 167,000 acres of forests in
organisation focused on the rights of indigenous people around the
world is conducting a fundraising drive to pay the fees of an
attorney in Kenya. The lawyer wants to file a court challenge on
behalf of the Maasai in opposition to the Mau Forest excision.
In Washington, the head
of a group representing Maasai interests is trying to involve the
World Bank and International Monetary Fund in the issue. Mr
Meitamei Olol Depash says he is seeking a meeting with the top
Kenya specialist at World Bank headquarters in order to persuade
the Bretton Woods institutions to take a stand against the
A US organisation that
uses the Internet to promote human rights has, meanwhile, set up a
website devoted to the Ogiek people's fight to retain their
hunting grounds in the Mau Forest. A sample protest letter posted
on the site www.ogiek.org
calls on President Moi, Attorney-General Amos Wako and other
Kenyan officials "to do all that is necessary to stop the
wanton destruction of Mau East Forest."
Close to 10,000 copies
of the letter have been sent electronically to Kenyan leaders,
says Mr Robert Lebowitz of the Digital Freedom Network. His New
Jersey-based group created the Ogiek website in co-operation with
Rights News and Features Service in Nairobi.
If leading "green"
NGOs in the US and the European Union do take up the cause, the
governments of those countries could potentially be pressurised
into interceding with the Kenyan government to spare the forests.
The NGOs could strive,
for example, to have bilateral aid to Kenya tied to a government
pledge to preserve the nation's forests. But efforts to raise
awareness of the issue in the US are still at an early stage.
"So far, we've not had the kind of response we had hoped to
generate," says Mr Depash, director of the Maasai
Environmental Resource Coalition.
He attributes the slow
growth of the campaign in the US partly to a lack of information
about the magnitude of the threat to Kenya's forests. "I
don't think international conservation organisations understand
the scope of what's at stake," says Mr Depash.
The planned excisions
should be of concern for cultural, economic and political reasons
as well as for their obvious environmental implications, Mr Depash
says. "NGOs active in all those areas should be aware of what
is happening in Kenya and should be working to stop it," he
says. "But our efforts are only at a preliminary stage and
this fight is going to go on for years."
Cultural Survival, the
Boston group devoted to defending the rights of indigenous peoples,
will be featuring a story on the Mau Forest in the next edition of
its quarterly publication, says director Ian McIntosh. The group
has some 3,000 dues-paying members in the US. And it is to them
that Cultural Survival is appealing for $5,000 in donations to
cover the retainer of Maasai attorney Moitalel ole Kenta.
Link : http://www.nationaudio.com/News/EastAfrican/