The Ogiek
An in-depth report by John Kamau, Rights Features Service

Annex 1
Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities

The only United Nations instrument which addressed the special rights of minorities in a separate United Nations document is the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities. The text of the Declaration, while ensuring a balance between the rights of persons belonging to minorities to maintain and develop their own identity and characteristics and the corresponding obligations of States, ultimately safeguards the territorial integrity and political independence of the Nation as a whole. The principles contained in the Declaration apply to persons belonging to minorities in addition to the universally recognised human rights guaranteed in other international instruments.

The Declaration grants to persons belonging to minorities:

  • Protection, by States, of their existence and their national or ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic identity (art. 1);
  • The right to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion and to use their own language in private and in public (art. 2.1);
  • The right to participate in cultural, religious, social, economic and public life (art.2.2);
  • The right to participate in decisions which affect them on the national and regional levels (art.2.3);
  • The right to establish and maintain own associations (art.2.4);
  • The right to establish and maintain peaceful contacts with other members of their group and with persons belonging to other minorities, both within their own country and across state borders (art. 2.5); and
  • The freedom to exercise their rights, individually as well as in community with other members of their group, without discrimination (art.3).

States are to protect and promote the rights of person belonging to minorities by taking measures:

  • To create favourable conditions to enable them to express their characteristics and to develop their culture, language, religion, traditions and customs (art.4.2);
  • To allow them adequate opportunities to learn their mother tongue or to have instruction in their mother tongue (art. 4.3);
  • To encourage knowledge of the history, traditions, language and culture of minorities existing within their territory and ensure that members of such minorities have adequate opportunities to gain knowledge of the society as a whole (art.4.4);
  • To allow their participation in economic progress and development (art.4.5);
  • To consider legitimate interests of minorities in developing national policies and programmes, and well as in planning and implementing programmes of co-operation and assistance (art.5);
  • To co-operate with other States on questions relating to minorities, including the exchange of information and experiences, in order to promote mutual understanding and confidence (art.6);
  • To promote respect for the rights set forth in the Declaration (art.7);
  • To fulfil the obligations and commitments States have assumed under international treaties and agreements to which they are parties.

Finally, the specialised agencies and other organisations of the United Nations system are encouraged to contribute to the realisation of the rights set forth in the Declaration (art.9).

The General Assembly, on the occasion of the adoption of the Declaration, called on the international community to direct its attention to making the standards effective through international and domestic mechanisms. This included, in particular, the dissemination of information on the Declaration and the promotion of understanding thereof; appropriate mechanisms for its effective promotion and consideration of the Declaration within the mandates of the relevant organs and bodies of the United Nations.

Working Group on Minorities

In 1995, a five-member Working Group on minorities of the Sub-Commission for the Prevention of Discrimination and the Protection of Minorities was established, initially for a three-year period, in order to promote the rights as set out in the Declaration on persons belonging to minorities, and in particular to:

  • review the promotion and practical realisation of the Declaration;
  • examine possible solutions to problems involving minorities, including the promotion of mutual understanding between and among minorities and Governments; and
  • recommend further measures, as appropriate, for the promotion and protection of the rights of person belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities.

We recommend that the Working Group take up the Ogiek case and challenge non-governmental organisations, inter-governmental organisations to present the Ogiek case to the working group. We ask this knowing well that, as a rule, any group can present its case to the Working Group irrespective of whether they have consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

 

Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities
(Adopted by General Assembly resolution 47/135 of 18 December 1992)

The General Assembly,

Reaffirming that one of the basic aims of the United Nations, as proclaimed in the Charter, is to promote and encourage respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion,

Reaffirming faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small,

Desiring to promote the realization of the principles contained in the Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as other relevant international instruments that have been adopted at the universal or regional level and those concluded between individual States Members of the United Nations,

Inspired by the provisions of article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights concerning the rights of persons belonging to ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities,

Considering that the promotion and protection of the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities contribute to the political and social stability of States in which they live,

Emphasising that the constant promotion and realization of the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, as an integral part of the development of society as a whole and within a democratic framework based on the rule of law, would contribute to the strengthening of friendship and co-operation among peoples and States,

Considering that the United Nations has an important role to play regarding the protection of minorities,

Bearing in mind the work done so far within the United Nations system, in particular by the Commission on Human Rights, the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities and the bodies established pursuant to the International Covenants on Human Rights and other relevant international human rights instruments in promoting and protecting the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities,

Taking into account the important work which is done by intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations in protecting minorities and in promoting and protecting the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities,

Recognizing the need to ensure even more effective implementation of international human rights instruments with regard to the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities,

Proclaims this Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities:

Article 1

1. States shall protect the existence and the national or ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic identity of minorities within their respective territories and shall encourage conditions for the promotion of that identity.

2. States shall adopt appropriate legislative and other measures to achieve those ends.

Article 2

1. Persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities (hereinafter referred to as persons belonging to minorities) have the right to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, and to use their own language, in private and in public, freely and without interference or any form of discrimination.

2. Persons belonging to minorities have the right to participate effectively in cultural, religious, social, economic and public life.

3. Persons belonging to minorities have the right to participate effectively in decisions on the national and, where appropriate, regional level concerning the minority to which they belong or the regions in which they live, in a manner not incompatible with national legislation.

4. Persons belonging to minorities have the right to establish and maintain their own associations.

5. Persons belonging to minorities have the right to establish and maintain, without any discrimination, free and peaceful contacts with other members of their group and with persons belonging to other minorities, as well as contacts across frontiers with citizens of other States to whom they are related by national or ethnic, religious or linguistic ties.

Article 3

1. Persons belonging to minorities may exercise their rights, including those set forth in the present Declaration, individually as well as community with other members of their group, without any discrimination.

2. No disadvantage shall result for any person belonging to a minority as the consequence of the exercise or non-exercise of the rights set forth in the present Declaration.

Article 4

1. States shall take measures where required to ensure that persons belonging to minorities may exercise fully and effectively all their human rights and fundamental freedoms without any discrimination and in full equality before the law.

2. States shall take measures to create favourable conditions to enable persons belonging to minorities to express their characteristics and to develop their culture, language, religion, traditions and customs, except where specific practices are in violation of national law and contrary to international standards.

3. States should take appropriate measures so that, wherever possible, persons belonging to minorities may have adequate opportunities to learn their mother tongue or to have instruction in their mother tongue.

4. States should, where appropriate, take measures in the field of education, in order to encourage knowledge of the history, traditions. language and culture of the minorities existing within their territory. Persons belonging to minorities should have adequate opportunities to gain knowledge of the society as a whole.

5. States should consider appropriate measures so that persons belonging to minorities may participate fully in the economic progress and development in their country.

Article 5

1. National policies and programmes shall be planned and implemented with due regard for the legitimate interests of persons belonging to minorities.

2. Programmes of co-operation and assistance among States should be planned and implemented with due regard for the legitimate interests of persons belonging to minorities.

Article 6

States should cooperate on questions relating to persons belonging to minorities, inter alia, exchanging information and experiences, in order to promote mutual understanding and confidence.

Article 7

States should cooperate in order to promote respect for the rights set forth in the present Declaration.

Article 8

1. Nothing in the present Declaration shall prevent the fulfilment of international obligations of States in relation to persons belonging to minorities. In particular, States shall fulfil in good faith the obligations and commitments they have assumed under international treaties and agreements to which they are parties.

2. The exercise of the rights set forth in the present Declaration shall not prejudice the enjoyment by all persons of universally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms.

3. Measures taken by States to ensure the effective enjoyment of the rights set forth in the present Declaration shall not prima facie, be considered contrary to the principle of equality contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

4. Nothing in the present Declaration may be construed as permitting any activity contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations, including sovereign equality, territorial integrity and political independence of States.

Article 9

The specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system shall contribute to the full realization of the rights and principles set forth in the present Declaration, within their respective fields of competence. MORE>>

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Acknowledgments
Introduction

Ch. 1: Ogiek: History of a Forgotten Tribe
Ch. 2:
The Struggle Begins, The Struggle Continues
Ch. 3:
The Closed Society

Ch. 4:
Wanton Destruction
Ch. 5:
Promises and More Promises
Ch. 6:
Threats and Lies
Ch. 7
: The Court Battle
Ch. 8:
The Aftermath

Appendix
Pt. 1:
The Ogiek Community Submission before the Njonjo Land Commission
Pt. 2: Epilogue
Pt. 3: Conclusions
Pt. 4: Recommendations

Annex 1: Declarations on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities
Annex 2
: The African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights
Annex 3:
Legal Instruments that Govern Land in Kenya

The Ogiek: The Ongoing Destruction of a Minority Tribe in Kenya Copyright © 2000 Rights News and Features Service. Citations on this document may be made freely but copyright is vested in Rights News and Features Service. Unless otherwise stated all the views expressed here are those of the authors and are endorsed by Rights News and Features Service, which is responsible for the content in this publication. First published in Nairobi by Rights News and Features Service, First Floor, College House, University Way, P.O. Box 63828, Nairobi, Kenya. Phone: +(254-2) 311724. E-mail: rightsfeatures@alphanet.co.ke. Copies of the report may be ordered from Rights News and Features Service.

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