A leaked copy of a World Bank investigation seen by the Guardian has accused the bank of failing to protect the rights of one of Kenya’s last groups of forest people, who are being evicted from their ancestral lands in the name of climate change and conservation.
Thousands of homes belonging to hunter-gatherer Sengwer people living in the Embobut forest in the Cherangani hills were burned down earlier this year by Kenya forest service guards who had been ordered to clear the forest as part of a carbon offset project that aimed to reduce emissions from deforestation.
The result has been that more than 1,000 people living near the town of Eldoret have been classed as squatters and forced to flee what they say has been government harassment, intimidation and arrest.
The evictions were condemned in February by the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples and the UN committee on the elimination of racial discrimination, and drew in the president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, who expressed alarm at what was described by 360 national and international civil society organisations and individuals as “cultural genocide”. An Avaaz petition collected 950,000 names calling for the bank to urgently halt the “illegal” evictions.
Following a request by the Sengwer to assess the impact of the bank’s funding of the project, the bank’s inspection panel decided in May that it had violated safeguards in several areas. At the same time, the bank’s management decided to ignore most of the independent panel’s recommendations.