12 December 2012

Namibia: International Body Advocates for Baster Authority

THE Unrepresented Nations and People's Organisation (UNPO) resolved at its November general assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, that the Baster community in the Rehoboth district should be afforded the status of a traditional authority.

The Rehoboth Baster Gemeente [community] lost its status as a traditional authority at independence in 1990 when the Baster self-governance was abolished and the Baster traditional land and other properties were claimed by the new government.

One of the preconditions for being acknowledged as a traditional authority is that a particular cultural community must have jurisdiction over communal land.

"We do not own one hectare. Since the government took the land, we are landless," said a member of the Rehoboth community, Jan van Wyk, yesterday.

There was a High Court challenge of the government's alienation of the Rehoboth Baster land, but this matter was not conclusively resolved.

Van Wyk said the Basters have constituted a traditional authority since 1870. He said the Baster community has approached the Namibian government "a thousand times" to seek recognition of a traditional authority, but that this request has consistently fallen on deaf ears.

The UNPO resolution said the Baster community has over the years experienced "the plight of indigenous minorities in Namibia without recognition from the Namibian government".

"This disregard for international law and minority rights is still taking place," the UNPO said.

It said Basters are the only indigenous community that has not received any compensation for their land loss, while other communities were either granted reparation or given their land back.

It also expressed concern that recent land tax increases put further pressure on private Baster farms that have been registered as commercial farmland since independence.

The UNPO made a request to the Namibian government to "restore the Baster communal land to its people and award them pertinent compensation for their losses".

The UNPO was formed in 1991 in The Hague, The Netherlands, as a membership-based international organisation that supports self-determination and self-governance.

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