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UN rights expert urges Kenya to respect indigenous peoples

The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples James Anaya [official website] on Monday urged [press release] the government of Kenya to respect the rights of the Sengwer indigenous people, who are facing eviction from their native home in the Embobut Forest in western Kenya. Kenyan authorities have been assembling nearby [allAfrica report] to enforce evictions ordered by the government in pursuit of its forest and water conservation objectives. Kenyan authorities have repeatedly and unsuccessfully attempted to force the Sengwer to resettle in other areas since the 1970s.

The rights of indigenous peoples have become a pressing issue in recent years. In October Anaya concluded that Canadian aboriginals are facing a "crisis" [JURIST report], with one in five indigenous people living in poverty. In July Anaya urged the Panamanian government to strengthen the rights of its indigenous people [JURIST report] and ensure they are allowed to preserve their land and autonomy. In December 2010 US President Barack Obama announced that the US would support [JURIST report] the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People [text]. The declaration, adopted [JURIST report] in 2007, is a non-binding treaty outlining the global human rights of approximately 370 million indigenous people and banning discrimination against them. The US was one of four member states that originally opposed adopting the treaty, citing concerns that its text conflicted with their countries' own laws, among other contentions. The US was the last member state of those in opposition to sign the declaration.

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