Human rights

Kenya: New report reveals widespread human rights violations behind wildlife conservancies

Devastating new report from the US-based Oakland Institute, Kenya’s wildlife ‘conservancies’, visitors to which include British Royals, are involved in the eviction, torture and murder of indigenous people local. Survival has reported such horrific abuses in conservation projects in Kenya for the past 10 years.

The new report investigates the infamous Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT), an organization of 39 “community conservatories” that now cover 42,000 km², or nearly 8% of Kenya. These were former grazing areas of pastoral communities, but have been transformed into “conservation areas”, controlled by the NRT, from which indigenous peoples are violently excluded, and which draw massive funds from carbon trading. , grants from donor countries and luxury goods. safari camps and lodges.

The NRT was the initiative of Ian Craig, whose family owned a 62,000 acre cattle ranch, which has been turned into the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. Lewa was where Prince William and Kate Middleton got engaged, and Craig remains NRT’s “head of conservation and development”.

In the report “Stealth Game:” community “conservancies devasate land and lives in north Kenya”, investigators detail shocking revelations about the functioning of these so-called “conservancies”, including:

– the dispossession of the natives and other local populations of their lands;
– multiple allegations of abuse and torture, including extrajudicial killings and disappearances;
– the use of militarized security forces, some formed by a company run by Ian Craig’s son;
– the massive takeover of land by a few wealthy individuals, driving pastoralists out of their land;
– intimidation, including arrests and interrogations of members and leaders of the local community.

The areas currently under “conservation” are the ancestral grazing lands of pastoral peoples such as the Samburu and Maasai, who have managed these lands since time immemorial.

Many reserves, including private ones like Ol Jogi (owned by the billionaire Wildenstein family) now host luxury safari camps. Ol Jogi would cost $ 210,000 to rent for a week; another, Sarara Lodge, is described by one of its tour operators as “a mission of salvation, not only for the wildlife and the grasslands, but also for the Samburu people”.

The report also reveals that the NRT receives millions of dollars in government grants – from the EU, US government agencies, Danida of Denmark, AFD of France, and others – as well as considerable sums from major corporations. conservation agencies, including The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, WWF, Fauna & Flora International, March to the Top, Space for Giants, Save the Elephants, Rhino Ark, Tusk and International Elephant Foundation.

Fiore Longo, Head of Survival’s Decolonize Conservation Campaign, said today: “Worryingly, NRT is increasingly turning to opaque and questionable carbon trading and carbon offsetting as another source of revenue. , and this is seen as a model by the EU in their new NaturAfrica project, despite the abundant evidence of human rights violations.

Kenyan conservationist and conservation expert Dr Mordecai Ogada said today: “NRT is an idea that started small (and perhaps with good intentions), but has now grown into a huge bubble financially and socially. unsustainable, straddling northern Kenya with quasi-governmental power. By manipulating cultural structures, they trapped communities in their artificial “conservation” model and donors in their Byzantine financial network. The longer this edifice lasts, the more perilous its inevitable dismantling will be. “

Caroline Pearce, Executive Director of Survival International, said today: “Kenya’s ‘conservatories’ have long cultivated an image of luxury in harmony with nature, unspoiled African landscapes and happy locals, often dressed in quaint clothes. . But – as Survival has long argued and researchers at the Oakland Institute amply demonstrate – it is simply a veneer of exploitation and abuse of power to the detriment of natives and other populations. local.

“Survival has gathered testimonies from around the world, detailing how this model of fortress conservation leads to the eviction of indigenous peoples from their own lands and to the abuse and terror of those who dispossess them. This is yet another example of why traditional conservation practices must change on a fundamental level, and why the world’s tolerance for appalling abuses disguised as friendly “conservation” must end. The NRT must be held to account.