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The UN, Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Peace. From Kenya. ODS 16

by | Sep 21, 2022 | Africa, Peace | 0 comments

The UN, Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Peace

I The Situation in the Northern Frontier of Kenya

Robert Omondi, Apiyo, cmf

Dip. Sciences of Human Development 

B.A. in Philosophy; B.A Social Ministry, 

Coordinator JPIC St. Charles Lwanga Ind.

Del. Coordinator Claretians at UNEP

Claretian Independent Del. of St. Charles Lwanga

The UN Declaration of Indigenous Peoples Rights

On 26 May 2017, the African Court on Human and People’s Rights ruled that the Government of Kenya had violated the right to life, property, natural resources, development, religion, and culture of the Ogiek, under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The Court ordered both monetary and non-monetary reparations.  These included the restitution of Ogiek’s ancestral lands and the full recognition of the Ogiek as indigenous peoples. The Ogiek elders, opinion leaders, and professionals had sought a legal recourse from the African Court on Human and People’s Rights because the Kenyan law did not recognize their indigenous identity as stipulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).  This clearly demonstrates the extent to which non-signatory status in view of the pro-Indigenous People’s International instrument could be inhibitive towards efforts for the protection of Indigenous people’s rights and subsequent promotion of peace among pastoralists as indigenous people.

Kenya’s abstention from voting in favor of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) rendered it non-signatory to a pro-Indigenous People’s International instrument. Kenya’s legitimate yet unvoiced concern derived from the framing of Articles 3 and 4 of UNDRIP on the subject of Indigenous People’s right to self-determination. This can be attributed to the complex post-independence irredentist history of some parts of its Northern Frontier Districts. Yet 25% of Kenya’s population consists of pastoralist communities who fit into the International operational definition of indigenous people. Further still, this group occupies nearly half of Kenya’s land mass in its Northern and Northeastern territories. Curiously, however, despite decades of securitized-marginalization of this vast pastoralists’ zone, it has continued to be characterized by intensive yet protracted and violent conflicts.

 A number of pieces of literature link the persistence of these conflicts to pre and post-independence politico-economic marginalization of the pastoralists’ spaces and communities in Northern Frontier Districts owing to its apparent agricultural non-viability. Others sustain that these conflicts have been exacerbated by the pre-existent livestock raiding cultural practice among the warrior pastoralists’ communities. These have been further heightened by the proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) from the fragile Horn of Africa states. The cumulative impact of all these conflict drivers had found a governance vacuum occasioned by both state absence and abstinence in Kenya’s Northern Frontier Districts.

How, then, could the incorporation of the UNDRIP standard and its subsequent customization within the 2010 constitutional framework have contributed to significant progress towards sustainable peace in the Northern Frontier Counties? How can the UNDRIP Framework help the existing approaches of Faith-Based organizations, like the Catholic Church, which has for a long time remained a crucial protagonist in terms of accompanying and providing service delivery to the Indigenous people in the Northern Frontier Districts?  Can the UNDRIP framework enrich the Claretian Missionaries in the reconfiguration of their current missionary approach in the Isiolo Mission?

UNDRIP Framework as a Distinction-Based Approach

One of the strategic value additions that UNDRIP as a framework brings to the subject of the rights of Indigenous people is the non-compartmentalization between the Human Right Based Approach (HRBA) and Distinction-Based Approach (DBA). The UNDRIP framework is, however, weak on the furtherance of distinctions centering on gender-based intersectionalities. This notwithstanding, UNDRIP’s distinction-based richness still offers a pathway to address Indigenous people’s unique differences. While UNDRIP firmly re-anchors itself on the human rights approach, it deliberately tangents towards the legal affirmation of indigenous people’s distinct identity and lifestyle as the basis upon which the full enjoyment of their human rights could actually be realized.

UNDRIP framework, therefore, is designed to legally and structurally protect Indigenous peoples’ unique identity and lifestyle as a special ecosystem. Any efforts towards building sustainable peace would consequently be an aggregation of initiatives that establish, protect, and promote in whole as, in its parts, the intricate micro-systems of interconnected elements that constitute the totality of the indigenous peoples’ ecosystem.

As such, UNDRIP seeks to conceptually desegregate and distinguish specific constitutive components of indigenous peoples’ ecosystems as unique in and of themselves. It further purposes to simultaneously create a harmonious interrelationship with other existing components. The prime objective is the creation of possible sustainable pathways through which the Indigenous people’s ecosystem could harmoniously link up with the current dominant cultures as well as the corporate and state systems without being devalued or negatively disrupted. Ultimately, UNDRIP strives to engender a positive transformation of the dominant state and corporate cultures from reducing indigenous peoples’ rich material and non-material cultures into extractable commodities.

This, therefore, means that non-recognition of UNDRIP inhibits its domestication into national laws and subsequently interferes with the possibility of formulating policy guidelines that would enhance peace among indigenous people.  In states like Kenya, which are non-signatory to UNDRIP, non-state actors like Faith-organization would also find it challenging to implement some vital principles as they would be at risk of contravening the laws of the land.

Robert Omondi, Apiyo, cmf


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