This story excerpt was translated from French. To read the original story in full, visit Libération. You may also view the original story on the Rainforest Journalism Fund website here. Our website is available in English, Spanish, bahasa Indonesia, French, and Portuguese.
Terse, with a broad build, Elias Kimaiyo is at first glance unappealing. The 40-year-old is a pillar of the Sengwers, a traditional indigenous hunter-gatherer people living in the mountains of northwestern Kenya. In late July 2021, at an altitude of more than 3,000 meters, the bitter cold of the outside world is seeping through the walls of a restaurant in Kapyego, a village perched high in the Cherangany Hills, and the smell of charcoal cooking saturates the nostrils. In a small, dark room at the back of the establishment, the farmer delivers his story, which takes place in 2017. "I was in the forest [of Embobut, ed.], I had waited for the Kenyan Forest Service [KFS] guards to leave to come out. But someone reported me, so I saw several guards come out and try to shoot me. I ran. I ended up falling, breaking my knee on a stump. They hit me and broke my shoulder."
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The man, who advocates for his people in his spare time, scrolls on his cell phone to a photo of the X-ray of his right arm, where screws are clearly visible holding his joint in place. He has lost all strength in the limb and his damaged knee gives him a clumsy gait. "They ran away with all my stuff, my computer, and left me there on the ground." Fortunately, a community member hears the gunshots and comes to find him and takes him to the hospital. "I filed a complaint against the KFS, the process is ongoing," says Kimaiyo.