24 May 2013

Africa: State of Indigenous Peoples in SADC


Following his recent visit to Namibia, members of the African caucus to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) met with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Dr James Anaya, to brief him on the issues affecting the San, Khoi, Batwa and Babuti indigenous peoples in Africa.

As he did in 2012, Vital Bambanze, Chair of the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee (IPACC) updated Anaya on the continuing crisis and gross human rights violations in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes Region more broadly. Conflicts in the region related to resource extraction - as well as the regional instability which has engulfed not only the DRC, but also parts of Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda - continue to exact a bloody toll on the indigenous Batwa and Babuti populations.

Joram Useb of IPACC, who is from the Ju/'oan community in Namibia, and Delme Cupido of the Indigenous Peoples' Rights Programme at OSISA, thanked the Special Rapporteur for making his historic visit to Namibia and briefed him on the most recent developments in that country, particularly the ongoing threats to the San in the Nyae Nyae and N#a Jaqna conservancies, where the San communities face incursions and land grabs by commercial cattle farmers.

Moving to neighbouring Botswana, Xuxuri Xuxuri and Job Morris appraised Anaya of the threatened expulsion of almost 20 San communities from their traditional territories, noting in particular the situation in Ranyane where a community of 600 mostly San people have been informed that they must move from land which they have been living on for decades. Xuxuri expressed his concern at the continued confrontations involving members of the San community and the paramilitary-style forces of the Botswana police, including at the Centra Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) where, notwithstanding rulings by the Botswana Courts, the government of Botswana continues to harrass the community in the hope that they will voluntarily deport themselves from their homeland.

Cecil Le Fleur of the National Khoisan Council updated the Special Rapporteur on recent developments in South Africa, including positive steps such as the opening up of the land restitution process for San and Khoi peoples who lost the bulk of their territories prior to the 1913 cut-off date, which has, until now, been in effect. He also raised the concerns of the Khoi, Nama, Griqua, Koranna and San people with the National traditional Authorities Bill, which the South African government wishes to implement. The Bill only recognises the traditional institutional arrangements of the predominantly Nguni or Bantu speaking tribes in South Africa, and critically, does not extend First peoples' status to the San and the Khoi.

The African caucus thanked the SR for his generous invitation to meet with him and hist staff, and urged him to continue following up on the reports and recommendations that he and his predecessors have made.

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