The politics of indigenous rights in Kenya

From his fieldwork findings, Dr Ridwan Laher (AISA Chief Research Specialist), reflected on the indigenous life in the postcolonial Kenyan nation-state at a seminar held on 15 February 2011. The country is largely characterised by exploitation, dispossession, alienation and impoverishment. These oppressive conditions have their structural origins from British colonial rule and indigenous people fared no better after independence. In effect, indigenous lifestyles are treated as obstacles to the development and modernization of the nation-state. This indifference has translated into state directed development programmes which invariably emphasise national interests over indigenous interests and wellbeing. The collective outcome of these pressures have entrenched the marginal presence that indigenous peoples suffer in the processes of politics and development in modern-day Kenya. The research conducted in this study aimed to assess the subjectivity of the above conditions in a spatial interplay that has been profoundly, and permanently, altered by two monumental events in recent Kenyan political history. The first altering event was the landmark decision by the African Commission of Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) in May 2009, that declared the Kenyan state guilty of violating the rights of its indigenous Endorois people. The second altering event was the signing into law of a new constitution by President Mwai Kibaki on 27 August 2010, that signalled a major departure in the manner that the Kenyan state intends to deal with its indigenous peoples and their development.

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