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Centre for Minority Rights Development (Kenya) and Minority Rights Group International on Behalf of Endorois Welfare Council v Kenya: A Landmark Decision from the African Commission

Abstract
Abstract

This is the first judgment from the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights to address the rights of indigenous peoples and their claims to land and natural resources. It is also the first ruling by an international tribunal which finds a violation of the right to development. The Commission examined the Kenyan government's eviction of the indigenous Endorois community from their ancestral land around Lake Bogoria to establish a game reserve. Finding violations of the rights of the Endorois to religion, culture, property, natural resources and development, the Commission called for the recognition of Endorois ownership of their ancestral land and its restitution to the community. This case note describes the Commission's legal analysis of the Endorois case and explains how the decision establishes an important precedent for ensuring equity and participation in natural resource management and development on indigenous lands.

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1 “Kenya: Endorois celebrate return of ancestral land” (19 March 2010) Daily Nation, available at: <http://www.nation.co.ke/News/Endorois%20celebrate%20return%20of%20ancestral%20land%20/-/1056/883110/-/f6qxb8z/-/index.html> (last accessed 24 April 2010).

2 A Kiprotich “Endorois finally return to their family land” (22 March 2010) The Standard, available at: <http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/InsidePage.php?id=2000006093&cid=4&> (last accessed 24 April 2010).

3 Centre for Minority Rights Development (Kenya) and Minority Rights Group International on behalf of Endorois Welfare Council v Kenya African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, comm no 276/2003 (Endorois judgment), available at: <http://www.achpr.org/english/Decision_Communication/Kenya/Comm.%20276-03.pdf> (last accessed 9 July 2011) at para 3.

4 Id at para 5.

5 Id at para 6.

6 Kiprotich “Endorois finally return”, above at note 2.

7 Endorois judgment, above at note 3 at paras 10–13.

8 Id at paras 1–21.

9 Id at paras 23–56. Kenya never made submissions on admissibility, obliging the Commission to rule to admit the communication without having received a submission from Kenya. Although Kenya later submitted arguments opposing admissibility along with its arguments on the merits, the Commission refused to reconsider its previous decision on admissibility: id at paras 57–70.

10 See African Charter, art 22.

11 Endorois judgment, above at note 3 at paras 144–62.

12 Id at para 147.

13 Katangese Peoples' Congress v Zaire Commission comm no 75/93, available at: <http://www.achpr.org/english/_info/List_Decision_Communications.html> (last accessed 24 April 2010).

14 The Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC) and the Center for Economic and Social Rights v Nigeria Commission comm no 155/96/2001, available at: <http://www.achpr.org/english/_info/List_Decision_Communications.html> (last accessed 24 April 2010).

15 Malawi Africa Association and Others v Mauritania Commission comm nos 54/91, 61/91, 98/93, 164/97 to 196/97 and 210/98, available at: <http://www.achpr.org/english/_info/List_Decision_Communications.html> (last accessed 24 April 2010).

16 Endorois judgment, above at note 3 at para 151.

17 Commission resolution on the rights of indigenous peoples' communities in Africa (2000): ACHPR/Res.51(XXVIII) 00, available at: <http://www.achpr.org/english/_doc_target/documentation.html?../resolutions/resolution56_en.html> (last accessed 23 April 2010).

18 “Report of the African Commission's Working Group of Experts on Indigenous Populations/Communities” (2005, the Commission and International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs) (WGIPC Report), adopted by the Commission at its 28th ordinary session, at 8; see also resolution on the adoption of the report of the WGIPC (2003): ACHPR/Res.65 (XXXIV) 03, available at: <http://www.achpr.org/english/_doc_target/documentation.html?../resolutions/resolution70_en.html> (last accessed 24 April 2010).

19 WGIPC Report, id at 78. For later examples of the Commission's questioning on indigenous rights see, for example: “Concluding observations of the ACHPR on the first periodic report of the Republic of South Africa” (2005), available at: <http://www.chr.up.ac.za/images/files/documents/ahrdd/southafrica/southafrica_concluding_observations_periodic_report_2005.pdf> (last accessed 19 June 2011); “Concluding observations on the periodic report of Cameroon” (2005), available at: <http://www.chr.up.ac.za/images/files/documents/ahrdd/cameroon/cameroon_concluding_observations_periodic_2005.pdf> (last accessed 19 June 2011); and “Concluding observations of the ACHPR on the initial report of the Republic of Kenya” (2007), available at: <http://www.chr.up.ac.za/images/files/documents/ahrdd/kenya/kenya_concluding_observations_2007.pdf> (last accessed 19 June 2011).

20 Resolution on the UN declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples (2007): ACHPR/Res. 121 (XXXXII) 07, available at: <http://www.achpr.org/english/resolutions/resolution121_en.htm> (last accessed 22 April 2010).

21 Barelli MThe role of soft law in the international legal system: The case of the United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples” (2009) 58 International Comparative Law Quarterly 957 at 961; see also WGIPC Report, above at note 18 at 12.

22 Endorois judgment, above at note 3 at para 150, citing WGIPC Report, id.

23 Endorois Judgment, id at para 151.

24 International Labour Organization Convention No 169 Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries (1989), art 1(1)(b).

25 Endorois judgment, above at note 3 at para 153.

26 IACtHR series C no 124 (2005).

27 IACtHR series C no 172 (2007).

28 Endorois judgment, above at note 3 at paras 159–60 and 198.

29 Id at para 159.

30 See generally WGIPC Report, above at note 18.

31 Id at 87.

32 Endorois judgment, above at note 3 at footnote 58.

33 Id at para 145.

34 Id at para 161.

35 Ibid.

36 Id at para 162.

37 Ibid.

38 Id at para 156.

39 Id at para 162.

40 Id at paras 78–79.

41 Id at para 116.

42 Id at para 170.

43 Id at para 240; see also para 170.

44 Id at para 173, citing Amnesty International v Zambia Commission comm no 212/98, available at: <http://www.achpr.org/english/_info/List_Decision_Communications.html> (last accessed 24 April 2010).

45 Endorois judgment, id at paras 172–73.

46 Id at para 173.

47 Id at para 246. The Commission cites “Guidelines for national periodic reports” in Second Annual Activity Report of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights 1988–1989: ACHPR/RPT/2nd, annex XII.

48 Id at para 248.

49 Id at para 249.

50 Ibid.

51 Id at para 250; see also para 173.

52 Id at para 251.

53 Id at para 186, citing Malawi African Association, above at note 15; SERAC v Nigeria, above at note 14.

54 Id at para 187, citing WGIPC Report, above at note 18.

55 See Endorois judgment, above at note 3 at paras 192–93, citing Saramaka People v Suriname, above at note 27. See also id at para 208, citing Mayagna (Sumo) Awas Tingni Community v Nicaragua IACtHR series C no 66 (2000).

56 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007): UN doc A/RES/61/29. The Commission noted that arts 26 and 27 call for ownership over lands “occupied or otherwise used”: Endorois judgment, id at para 207.

57 Endorois judgment, id at para 204.

58 Id at para 210.

59 See id at paras 192–93 and 206, citing Saramaka People v Suriname, above at note 27. See also Endorois judgment, id at para 207, citing Mayagna (Sumo) Awas Tingni v Nicaragua, above at note 55.

60 See Endorois judgment, id at para 261, citing IACtHR jurisprudence including: Yakye Axa Indigenous Community v Paraguay IACtHR series C no 125 (2005); Sawhoyamaxa Indigenous Community v Paraguay IACtHR series C no 146 (2006); Saramaka People v Suriname, id.

61 Endorois judgment, id at paras 266–67, noting the decision in Saramaka People v Suriname, id.

62 Id at para 212.

63 Id at para 213. The Commission noted its conclusions in Constitutional Rights Project, Civil Liberties Organization and Media Rights Agenda v Nigeria Commission comm nos 140/94, 141/94 and 145/95 (1999).

64 Id at para 212.

65 Id at para 226.

66 Id at para 212.

67 Id at para 226.

68 See id at paras 196, 199 and 206.

69 Id at para 210.

70 Id at para 214.

71 Id at para 235; see also at para 215.

72 Id at para 236; see also at paras 229–31 and 236.

73 Id at para 277, citing A Sengupta “Development cooperation and the right to development” (Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Centre working paper no 12, 2003), available at: <http://www.harvardfxbcenter.org/resources/working-papers/FXBC_WP12-Sengupta.pdf> (last accessed 4 May 2011) and UN Declaration on the Right to Development (1986): UN doc A/RES/41/128 UN at art 2.3.

74 Id at para 277.

75 Id at para 278.

76 Id at para 283, quoting UN Declaration on the Right to Development, above at note 73 at art 2.3.

77 Id at para 279, quoting UN “Preliminary working paper on the principle of free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples in relation to development affecting their lands and natural resources that they would serve as a framework for the drafting of a legal commentary by the Working Group on this concept” (2004): UN Doc. E/CN.4/Sub.2/AC.4/2004/4.

78 Id at paras 281 and 289.

79 Id at para 291.

80 Id at para 281.

81 Id at para 292.

82 Id at para 281.

83 Id at para 297.

84 Id at para 283.

85 Id at para 294.

86 Id at para 295.

87 Id at para 297.

88 Ibid.

89 Id at 80.

90 A Kiprotich “Will state respect community's land rights?” (22 March 2010) The Standard, available at: <http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/specialreports/InsidePage.php?id=2000006073&cid=259&story=Will%20State%20respect%20community%E2%80%99s%20land%20rights?> (last accessed 25 April 2010).

91 Sessional paper no 3 of 2009 on National Land Policy (2009, Ministry of Lands, Kenya), available at: <http://ldgi.org/publics/Sessional-paper-on-Kenya-National-Land-Policy.pdf> (last accessed 19 June 2011).

92 Id at sec 3.3.1.

93 Id at sec 3.3.2.

94 Id at sec 3.4.3.1.

95 Id at sec 3.3.4.1.

96 Id at sec 3.3 (55).

97 Id at sec 3.6.6 (198).

98 See WGIPC Report, above at note 18 at 15–19 for discussion of these and other indigenous groups in Africa.

99 SERAC v Nigeria, above at note 14 at para 68.

100 For a general discussion of the increasing demand for land in Africa see L Cotula et al Land Grab or Development Opportunity: Agricultural Investment and International Land Deals in Africa (2009, FAO, IIED and IFFEAD), available at: <www.ifad.org/pub/land/land_grab.pdf> (last accessed 24 April 2010).

* MA, Yale University; JD, New York University School of Law.

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Journal of African Law
  • ISSN: 0021-8553
  • EISSN: 1464-3731
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