“We are destroying the planet by destroying the people that protect it”

By Charlotte Owen-Burge | April 22, 2022

Cindy Kobei is an Indigenous rights activist from the hunter-gatherer Ogiek community of the Mau Forest in Kenya. She is currently pursuing a post-graduate diploma in law at the Kenya School of Law and is Chair of the Tirap Youth Trust.

Here, Ms Kobei discusses the necessity of Indigenous custodianship, the law, deepening equalities caused by the climate crisis, and the need to rekindle our connection with the natural world.


According to the last census there are more than 35,000+ Indigenous peoples living in the Ogiek community on land covering 400,000 hectares.

The culture and livelihoods of this community are tied to their forest lands. They have traditionally depended on hunting and honey cultivation, but this way of life is under threat.

Since independence in 1963, and prior to it, the community have been routinely subjected to forced evictions from their ancestral land.

The Ogiek’s key arguments are:

  • They are Indigenous peoples, entitling them to collective rights.
  • They have been living in the Mau Forest Complex since time immemorial.
  • Their ways of life are linked to the forest.
  • Failure to recognize the community as Indigenous denies them their right to communal ownership of land.
  • The inability of the government to respect collective rights violates article 14 of the African Charter.
  • They have suffered routine discrimination.
  • Evictions have interfered with their places of worship violating article 8 of the African Charter.



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