Tag Archives: eviction of indigenous peoples

Why Nations Become Marine Protected Areas

Diego Garcia. Image from wikipedia

In November 1965, the UK purchased the entire Chagos Archipelago from the then self governing colony of Mauritius for £3 million to create the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), with the intent of ultimately closing the plantations to provide the uninhabited British territory from which the U.S. would conduct its military activities in the region. On 30 December 1966, the U.S. and the UK executed an Agreement through an Exchange of Notes which permit the United States Armed Forces to use any island of the BIOT for defense purposes for 50 years (through December 2016), followed by a 20-year optional extension (to 2036) to which both parties must agree by December 2014. As of 2010, only the atoll of Diego Garcia has been transformed into a military facility.  The indigenous populations of the islands were relocated to Mauritius and the Seychelles to make way for a joint United States-United Kingdom military base on Diego Garcia.

There are two transnational political issues which affect the status of the Chagos archipelago.  First, the island nation of Mauritius claims the Chagos Archipelago (which is coterminous with the BIOT), including Diego Garcia. A subsidiary issue is the Mauritian opposition to the 1 April 2010 UK Government’s declaration that the BIOT is a Marine Protected Area with fishing and extractive industry (including oil and gas exploration) prohibited.

Second, the issue of compensation and repatriation of the former inhabitants of several of the archipelago’s atolls, exiled since 1973, continues in litigation and as of 23 August 2010 has been submitted to the European Court of Human Rights by a group of former residents.Litigation continues as of 2012 regarding the right of return for the displaced islanders and Mauritian sovereignty claims. In addition, advocacy on the Chagossians’ behalf continues both in the United States and in Europe.  According to a document released by wikileaks the marine protected area in the Chagos archipelago was established to prevent former inhabitants “to pursue their claim for resettlement on the islands.”

Excerpts from wikipedia Chagos Archipelago

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Eviction of Indigenous Peoples from National Parks

On the second anniversary of a landmark ruling by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), Minority Rights Group International (MRG) condemns the Kenyan government’s lack of commitment to ensuring justice for the Endorois people and urges the authorities to immediately restore ownership to the community of their ancestral lands around the Lake Bogoria National Reserve.

Although the Commission recognised, for the first time in the continent, indigenous peoples’ rights over traditionally occupied land and their right to be involved in, and benefit from, any development affecting their land, the Endorois still have no land title, have received no compensation for the loss they suffered during almost 40 years, nor a significant share in tourism revenue from their land.  Kenya adopted a new Constitution in August 2010, which, together with a new National Land Policy, supported the Commission’s decision in recognising indigenous peoples’ ancestral lands.

‘Two years on from the African Commission’s ruling the Endorois are still waiting for justice to be brought home. The government’s lack of engagement with the community is of extreme concern and, inevitably, it raises questions about their commitment to the high ideals to be found in Kenya’s new Constitution,’ says Carla Clarke, MRG’s Head of Law….  ‘In view of Kenya’s new Constitution, which provides for the establishment of a National Land Commission to review past abuses and recommend appropriate redress, it is particularly important that the government implements the Commission’s decision without further delay,’ added Carla Clarke.

Endorois land was originally appropriated by the Kenyan government in the 1970s to create the Lake Bogoria National Reserve. On 2 February 2010, the African Union adopted a decision of the ACHPR which declared firstly that the expulsion of Endorois from their lands was illegal, and secondly that the Kenyan government had violated certain fundamental rights of the community protected under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other international instruments.

The Endorois are a semi-nomadic indigenous community of approximately 60,000 people, who for centuries have earned their livelihoods from herding cattle and goats in the Lake Bogoria area of Kenya’s Rift Valley.  When tourists flock to Lake Bogoria, famous for its flamingos and geysers, they have little idea of the high cost the Endorois paid for their eviction. The vast majority of the community still live in severe poverty, have little or no electricity, walk miles to collect water in an area stricken by drought, and are often dependent on relief food.

Since the creation of the wildlife reserve, the Endorois have been unable to gather the plants they once relied on for medicinal purposes, conduct religious ceremonies at their sacred sites or visit the graves of their ancestors.

 

Two years on from African Commission’s ruling, Kenya continues to drag its feet in recognising indigenous peoples’ ownership of wildlife park, MRG urges government to act, Reuters, Feb. 3, 2012