The Kenyan government has brushed off EU concern over human rights as misguided.
EU Ambassador to Kenya Stefano A. Dejak condemned the reported killing of a member of the Sengwer community, and shooting of another by Kenyan Forest Service (KSF) guards in the area this week.
He said the shooting took place after the EU formally alerted Kenya's government that the use of force by KFS guards in the Embobut Forest or elsewhere against innocent locals would lead the EU to suspend its financial support for conservation work on the country's water towers.
“Accordingly, we are now suspending the support to the Water Towers Programme with the Government of Kenya,” Dejak declared in a statement seen by APA.
“The EU insists on full respect for the rights of indigenous people, and the conservation work on the water towers was never expected to involve any evictions or use of violence,” he added.
They have been following up reports which began more than a year ago concerning abuses of indigenous people's rights in the conservation areas, as there were claims that these were linked to the EU's support.
According to the EU official, a new wave of evictions of Sengwer people from the Embobut Forest was reported last month, leading quickly to intense discussions between the EU Delegation in Kenya and the government.
On 15 January, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights reported on its website that three UN Special Rapporteurs had expressed concerns about the recent reports of evictions of Sengwer inhabitants, and that they had urged the EU to suspend its funding for the conservation work.
The EU-funded programme is the Water Towers Protection and Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Programme.
It seeks to protect the ground supplies of water, which are known as water towers, in the Mount Elgon and the Cherangani Hills areas of Kenya.
The water towers store rainwater, enable regular river flows, recharge ground-water storage, improve soil fertility, reduce erosion and sediment in river water, and host a diverse species of plants and animals. Launched in June 2016, the programme has provided technical support and funding to the national government, counties and several government agencies.