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Indigenous peoples’ rights swept away by Danish wind power project

May 31 2016
Not acknowledging pastoralist communities as indigenous peoples and not obtaining their free, prior and informed consent before implementation began, the Lake Turkana Wind Power project failed to comply with international human rights standards when projecting a large-scale green energy project on indigenous peoples' traditional land in Northern Kenya. This is one of the main findings of a new report released today by the independent Danish watchdog “Danwatch”


“A people in the way of progress” is the first report in a series of two investigations that focus on the social impacts of the Lake Turkana Wind Power project, which is the largest private investment in the history of Kenya at approximately EUR 625 million.  

Danwatch has conducted 24 interviews with ethnic groups in Sarima and the catchment area, Gatab, Loiyangalani, Kargi and Marsabit, four counties in Northern Kenya. Most communities approve of the wind power project, but some claim that no public consultations were conducted neither by the State nor the company before their land was leased to the Lake Turkana Wind Power project in 2007. The land rights issue is now in court.

Besides the alleged violations of rights to land and consultations, the wind power project has had a number of adverse social impacts on the neighbouring indigenous communities. Prostitution, violence and alcoholism have come to Sarima with the influx of people that followed the jobs promised by the project, the report says.  

The Lake Turkana Wind Power project is highly praised by the Danish Government as a model for green growth and sustainable development.

“It is also an example of the fact, that just because projects are green they don’t necessarily live up to international human rights standards – especially when they are implemented on indigenous peoples’ lands - as is often the case”, says Marianne Wiben Jensen, Africa programme coordinator for the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA).

IWGIA supports indigenous peoples' advocacy through organisational strenghtening, capacity building and awareness raising. IWGIA also works to raise duty bearers' awareness of indigenous peoples’ rights and of their responsibilities to respect, protect and fulfill them.

In the case of projects such as the Turkana Wind Power project it falls on the State of Kenya to prevent adverse human rights impacts by third parties, but the renewable energy sector itself also holds a duty to respect human rights in accordance with international standards, such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.   

Last year, together with the Indigenous Peoples National Steering Committee on Climate Change (IPNSCCC) in Kenya, IWGIA published the report “Renewable Energy Projects and the Rights of Marginalised/Indigenous Communities in Kenya” which offers guidance to States and the renewable energy sector on conducting Human Rights Impact Assessments in pastoralist areas. 

The new report by Danwatch has already created a spur of public interest in Denmark and has been quoted by various Danish media e.g. Danish daily Newspaper "Information", Danish televisionDR online news, and Berlingske Business News.  

Read more about the Danwatch report and its findings here