Kenya: Concerns regarding the killing of Environmental Defender Joannah Stutchbury

The following is based on a communication written by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and other UN experts to the Government of Kenya on 17 November 2021. It remained confidential for 60 days during which time the Government was expected to respond. The Government did not reply during this window, and Kenya has not replied to any communication written to it by UN experts since 2017. Replies, if received, will be published on the public UN Special Procedures’ Database.

Topic: killing of environmental human rights defender Joannah Stutchbury.

Ms. Joannah Stutchbury was an environmental human rights defender in Kenya, who opposed developments in the Kiambu forest on the outskirts of Nairobi.


On 15 July 2021, at around 10:00 pm, Ms Joannah Stutchbury was shot dead near her home on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya, after receiving multiple death threats following her campaign against the development of wetlands in a national park. Unknown assailant attacked her on the driveway to her house and shot her four times.

Ms. Stutchbury had vocally opposed attempts by powerful local businessmen to build on the nearby Kiambu forest. Two years before her killing, Ms. Stutchbury stood up to private developers and the dredging of the Kiambu forest. An iconic photo of her sitting in an excavator bucket went viral and also caught the attention of the Kenya Forest Service, and the attempt was stopped.

The Kiambu forest lies on the outskirts of the Nairobi, where land prices have soared in recent years. Gitathiru, one of five perennial tributaries of the Nairobi River, is located in Kiambu forest. These tributaries form the Nairobi Water Basin and are a critical source of fresh water for the Thwake Dam, 200km away in Kitui County.


In the communication we expressed serious concern at the killing of Ms Joannah Stutchbury, which appears to be clearly linked to her activities in protecting the environment, in particular her advocacy to protect the Kiambu forest. We are concerned about the chilling effect her murder may have on civil society as a whole in Kenya, and in particular on human rights defenders.

Read the full communication


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