NAIROBI (Reuters) - The European Union has shelved a 3.6 billion shilling ($35 million) water conservation assistance scheme to Kenya after forest guards killed a member of a community indigenous to one of the forests involved in the project.
The program was helping Kenya plant trees, restore degraded land and protect water catchment areas in highland forests, which are major sources of water that flows into Lake Victoria and the Nile basin.
Stefano Dejak, the EU ambassador to Kenya, said Tuesday's killing of the man, and the shooting of another, in Embobut forest in the west of the country, came after the bloc had told the government it would reconsider financial support if the use of force against innocent locals persisted.
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, the EU said in a statement.
It said the dead man was a member of the Sengwer, an indigenous group in the area.
"The conservation work on the water towers was never expected to involve any evictions or use of violence," it said in a statement.
Judi Wakhungu, the Kenyan minister of environment and natural resources, said she did not have a formal report of the incident the EU referred to.
There was a security operation led by the ministry of the interior in the area to flush out cattle rustlers, criminal elements and militias who hide in the forest, she said.
"We are going to assess how exactly we can improve the prevailing security situation... Thereafter we will see how we can move the project forward once we are satisfied that normalcy has returned," she told Reuters, adding the EU would be involved.
Kenya's economy relies heavily on farming and tourism.
(Reporting by Duncan Miriri; editing by John Stonestreet)