Victory for WITNESS and the Endorois People

Last week WITNESS sent out via e-mail its mid-year Performance Evaluation Dashboard. In its dashboard, you can find an overview of everything they have accomplished over the last six months – and it’s a lot!

But they were very proud of one victory in particular. Because the organization’s campaigns are aimed at creating systemic change, often a lot of work goes on behind the scenes before that change is realized. According to WITNESS, we just witnessed one of these landmark moments and that was the Endorois people’s victory reclaiming their ancestral lands in Lake Bogoria in Kenya.

The story goes something like this: in 1973 the Endorois were evicted from their lands to make room for a wildlife preserve. For decades, they tried unsuccessfully to persuade government and local authorities to let them return to their land and share the revenues generated by the reserve. In 2003, the Endorois' case was brought to the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights; working with local partner CEMIRIDE, WITNESS provided video advocacy strategy and training to strengthen the Endorois' case with evidentiary videos, marking the first time video has been used as evidence by the African Commission.

After a fight for justice that spanned generations, the African Commission ruled that the eviction violated the Endorois' right to development compromising their rights to property, health, culture, religion, and natural resources. This February the African Union adopted that ruling and dictated that Kenya ought to take steps to return the land and compensate the Endorois within three months. This is a landmark decision with unprecedented and far-reaching implications for the rights of indigenous peoples across the African continent.

If you haven’t visited WITNESS’s The Hub, now would be a great time to do so. You can watch "Rightful Place: Endorois' Struggle for Justice.” Congratulations to all the hard work done by everyone at WITNESS to make this victory possible.