Archive for February, 2012

Indigenous Peoples Walk Out Of WIPO Committee On Genetic Resources

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

22 feb 2012…The International Indigenous Forum, in an unprecedented collective move, decided yesterday to withdraw from the discussions of the WIPO Committee on Genetic Resources taking place from 14-22 February. The move calls into question the legitimacy of the negotiations….In a statement [pdf in English], [pdf in Spanish] that the representative could not read in its entirety in plenary, the group said that Indigenous Peoples have participated as experts in IGC sessions, and worked in good faith. They have, according to the statement, “made efforts over the years to submit to the IGC sessions our collectively developed and sound proposals, which have been ignored or left in brackets in negotiation texts.”
TO READ ARTICLE CLICK:HERE

NAMIBIA: INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DEMAND THEIR RIGHTS

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

As the result of a two months-long visit to the former Kaokoland by independent human rights expert, Rebecca Sommer, who conducted human rights awareness raising gatherings with two of the several Namibian indigenous minority groups, the Himba people issued two separate declarations listing a whole of litany of violations of their civil, cultural, economic, environmental, social and political rights perpetrated by the Government of Namibia (GoN).

The Zemba people also issued their declaration listing similar violations by GoN. In the three declarations, signed between January 20 2012 and February 12 2012 the Himba (who include the Twa and Tjimba subgroups) pointed out that they are a distinct people, with their own tradition and culture and that they have exclusively inhabited the former Kaokoland for centuries prior to Namibian independence in 1990.

In their two declarations the Himba people also pointed out that, they are totally opposed to the construction of a huge hydroelectric dam on the Kunene River. According to them, generations of their ancestors’ graves would be flooded by the planned construction of the dam, while many people would also be forced to relocate from the area, overpopulating, and overgrazing other areas where they would be forced to resettle, which would cause poverty and loss of livestock due to the lack of grazing areas.

In their declaration, the Zemba people explain that they have always lived on both sides of the Kunene River, in the area of Ruacana (i.e. Ruhakana) and also demand to be recognized by Namibia as a distinct indigenous people of Namibia. Both tribes also demand in their declarations recognition by GoN of their land rights. Most traditional villages of the Zemba people are situated in the former Kaokoland (now Kunene Region) where they live as permanently invited landless guests of the Himba people, and in Ruacana and a few villages are situated in present-day Omusati Region that the Zemba claim as their traditional territory.

Now officially known as the Kunene Region, the former Kaokoland is a dry and mountainous area in the remote northwestern corner of Namibia. It is homeland to an estimated 46 000 and more than 15 000 Himba and Zemba people, respectively. The two groups stand out among other ethnic groups in Namibia because of their continuous adherence to their traditional livelihood, lifestyles and attires. They moved into the former Kaokoland, in the 16th and 17th centuries and have been living there since then.

Through their respective declarations, the two groups accuse the Ovambo-controlled GoN of subjecting them to systematic denial of their right to self-determination. Making up more than 50 percent of Namibia’s population of 2.2 million, the Ovambo people are the single most dominant ethnic constituent in post-independence Namibian politics. In addition to the Ovambo, Himba and Zemba, Namibia is composed of at least 10 other ethnic groups. However, none of the remainder of the country’s national, or ethnic and linguistic minorities comprises more than 10 percent of Namibia’s population.

In their historic declarations, the Himba and Zemba peoples demand that they must be allowed to choosetheir own representatives and leaders, determine freely their political institution, maintain and preserve their own governance structures and freely pursue their socio-economic and cultural development in accordance with their own pace and space.

The Himba people demand GoN’s recognition of 33 of their 36 traditional leaders while the Zemba people insist that their chief and his senior councilors be recognized. Other demands in the declarations include legal territorial land rights, that their children be taught in their mother tongue, better English lessons so that they can speak, read and write English well, and that natural resources in the traditional areas be placed under their custodianship. They also demand that mining companies be removed from ‘their’ territories, or that they be included in the process of granting mining permits and benefit from the mining activities.

The groups demand that GoN respect, protect and fulfill their right to their lands, territories and resources, which they claim they have traditionally owned and occupied for centuries. They also demanded that GoN stop “without delay” the implementation of the Communal Land Reform Act 2002, which they say has resulted in their lands being fenced off or “legally grabbed” by members of the dominant Ovambo ethnic group.

The Himba people have also petitioned the United Nations to help them stop the construction of a massive hydroelectric dam, which would produce 1 700-gigawatts of electricity in Namibia. The Zemba tribe said the government has denied them recognition as a distinct tribe since the 1990s, and claimed that the ruling party, which is dominated by the Oshivambo group, “played a very cruel, unfair game” with them.

Rebecca Sommer, who agreed to collaborate with Namibian human rights organization NamRights, handed the declarations to Namrights for submission to the African Union (AU) and GoN.

On February 23 2012, NamRights submitted the declarations to the country’s Prime Minister Nahas Angula and to the AU’s African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, while Rebecca Sommer submitted the same declarations to the United Nations system in Geneva and New York on February 24 2012.

NamRights executive director, Phil ya Nangoloh, who passed on the declarations to Prime Minister Angula’s office and to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, emphasized that the groups’ desire for self-determination should not be confused with secession attempts. Ya Nangoloh also stressed that the role of NamRights and Sommer was “exclusively to enlighten” the groups on their rights as contained in the UNDRIP and other international human rights instruments.

Both UNDRIP and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, ban discrimination and outline the rights of such minorities to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education, and other matters. The two tribes have also asked the UN’s special expert on the human rights of indigenous people to visit Namibia.

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To download the original signed Declaration click here:

http://earthpeoples.org/DECLARATION_HIMBA.pdf

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PHOTOS of the four day long human rights meeting of the Himba Chiefs, that resulted in writing and signing their Declarationclick here
PHOTOS of Himba chiefs signing their Declarationclick here
VIDEO of cultural Himba dance that took place during lunch break at the human rights meetings click here

How Climate Change Causes Earthquakes and Erupting Volcanoes

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

To read article in the Guardian click: here

HIMBA LEADERS INVITATION TO THE UNITED NATIONS SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON THE RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES (FEBRUARY 2012)

Friday, February 24th, 2012

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To download the original Declaration against the Orokawe Dam in the Baynes mountains,  signed by the Himba chiefs and leaders of the most affected communities – click here:

http://earthpeoples.org/HIMBA_DECLARATION_DAM.pdf

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To download the original signed Declaration of all Himba leaders from Kaokoland, in Namibia, click here:

http://earthpeoples.org/DECLARATION_HIMBA.pdf

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Download original: DECLARATION BY THE TRADITIONAL HIMBA LEADERS OF KAOKOLAND IN NAMIBIA

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Opuwo, Namibia,  20 January 2012

We, the indigenous Himba people, are the original inhabitants, caretakers and true owners of our Kaokoland that we have inherited from our ancestors.

We know through our oral history and knowledge that our traditional territory stretches from the Kunene river in the north, to the Damaraland in the south, to the Atlantic ocean in the west, and to the Ovazemba and Owamboland in the east.

The borders of our territory were always clearly defined through mutual respect between us and the neighboring tribes.

Those borders were reaffirmed as well as documented by all three colonial governments that ruled our country before Namibia became independent.

On every map or schoolbooks about Namibia one can see our Kaokoland’s borders being acknowledged.

Within Kaokoland we traditional leaders rule and care for our people and land in our areas according to our ancestral governance structure.

But to our great grievance, the Namibian government has destroyed our ancestral traditional governance structure, by disposing and withholding the official recognition of 33 of us as rightful traditional leaders.

We and other traditional leaders from other tribes went to the High Court, and we won the case on December 13th 2001, and the Government of Namibia was ordered to re-install us in our rightful positions as Traditional Authorities.

But the state did not comply to the Court order to this very day, and we remain the not recognized leaders, removed from our legal powers.

Today we have only 3 traditional chiefs that are recognized by the state, that share overlapping jurisdiction of the entire Kaokoland.

Our people and we strongly object to the states’ ruthless interference by the Government of Namibia that is disabling our people to choose their own leaders and destiny.

We therefore declare that the Government of Namibia deliberately disempowering us to govern ourselves within our Kaokoland to hinder us and our people to determine our own future, such as to ensure the continuity of our cultural identity, traditions and customs and our political institution, that we wish to preserve for the future generations.

Because we are no longer allowed to govern, and are not recognized by the Government of Namibia as the legitimate leaders of our people and land, we see our traditional territory being invaded by the ruling Owambo ethnic group in Namibia, that controls the ruling SWAPO Party which in turn runs the government.

The ruling SWAPO Party has been imposing on us laws, programs, leaders and projects that we don’t want, but we are made voiceless. We are not consulted, not included in any decision-making processes, nor are we heard when we object.

We are therefore the marginalized and oppressed tribe in our country Namibia.

We are currently facing a law that allows any citizen of Namibia to apply and receive 20 hectares of our land. (Communal Land Reform Act 5 of 2002).

We strongly object this law that is forced upon our throats against our will and consent.

This is a land grab! We are loosing our land. Our land is being fenced by outsiders that are not from our area.

We, the original people of this Kaokoland are semi nomadic people. We are roaming with our cattle, goat and sheep from place to place. We react to the change of climate in our semi dessert environment, and follow the needs of our livestock and move them to grazing areas that are sufficient for them, especially during dry season.

We experience already climate change. The weather is becoming more extreme. It is growingly hotter and we have less rain. When it rains we have severe floods. Our land is facing desertification, which means less green food for our animals and less crop production for our people.

The fencing of our land is therefore not only a land right issue, and threatening our way of live, but more so a matter of our very survival.

We won’t be able to adopt and mitigate the negative effects of climate change when we are no longer able to access and roam freely our land.

We also complain that the Government of Namibia has not taken any steps to inform us on climate change, nor has it taken steps to help us with mitigating and adapting to those changes.

We also face other forms of invasion into our territory by large-scale mining companies, which will destroy huge areas of our environment without our free, prior and informed consent.

We are not even informed what resources are taken out of our grounds, what dangerous chemicals are used in the process, nor do we receive any benefits from our stolen natural resources.

But if our own people want to apply for a small-scale mining permits, we usually cannot obtain them, and we are told that area already belongs to other companies often owned by non-Himba outsiders.

The Government of Namibia is giving away our other natural resources, such as fish from our marine territory to the west, where the Government is giving away large-scale fishing rights to multinational companies.

In the recent past we have successfully opposed the construction of the Epupa Hydroelectric Dam. Our leaders, such as Chief Hikuminue Kapika and Chief Paulus Tjavara and others went to the UN and informed the Human Rights Committee and then UN Human Rights High Commissioner Mary Robinson herself about the injustice done to us. As a result, the World Bank removed its financial support for the Dam, as has Japan and other international financiers]. Today the Government of Namibia claims that they have listened to us, but in reality they have been forced by the international pressure to cease the construction of the dam.

Today, we now also hear that the Government of Namibia wants to build again a dam in our territory, this time at Baynes Mountains, downstream of Epupa area]. But as we have done so in the past, we strongly oppose and object to this. Again, the affected communities and traditional leaders have not been consulted, nor have we been included in any steps of the planning and decision-making levels. We will never give our consent to have our river being blocked, the life in the waters and dependent of it being threatened, and to have our environment being destroyed and our land being taken away from us.

We would loose our graveyards and sacred places in those areas that would be flooded or destroyed through the construction of the dam. The population would become refugees, forced to move away with their animals to other areas that are already inhabited by others from our community. It would cause overpopulation and poverty due to overgrazing in the neighboring areas. The construction of such dam would also lead to the importation of workers from the ‘developed’ majority communities in Namibia, who are mainly males, some of whom carry dangerous and incurable sexually transmitted diseases, such as the deadly HIV-AIDS pandemic, which would surely decimate of our less “civilized” communities. Moreover, the beneficiaries of the hydro-electricity will be those who live in the cities and not us.

We also are objecting to the removal of our firearms, that we have bought before the country became independent. In that time it was not usual to buy firearms, which are documented. Instead of the state creating a mechanism to ensure that we are not dispossessed of our property now, we are required to hand them over, without being reimbursed for the value of them. We do need firearms to protect ourselves and animals from wild animals that sometimes attack us.

Even so we are heavily taxed by the state, and pay for each sold or slaughtered animal, and pay value added tax (VAT) on any items bought, we are the most left behind in the entire country when it comes to roads, bridges, public buildings, health and education.

Even though there is a law decentralizing governmental functions to the regions, in fact the Government of Namibia is merely deconcentrating its powers and therefore demoralizing our administrative regional capacities. Administrative buildings are often not located in the capitals of our regions, and scattered in different townships far from each other, causing problems for our people to access them.

One of our main grievances is the lack of culturally appropriate schools for our communities. As semi nomadic people we need mobile schools, that allow our children to be well educated while moving with their community and animals. Since Norway that had funded our mobile schools has yielded their responsibility for these schools to the Government of Namibia, we see that these schools are either closed, the school tents and materials are no longer maintained, the transport to move the school tents and materials is now missing and we fear that the moving schools will decrease and no longer exist in the near future.

Starting from Grade 4 onwards, our children are by Namibian law educated in English and not in their mother language, causing our children to be left behind, as they do not understand fully what is being taught. The school system itself is very bad; our children are not receiving good education.

But worse off all, our children are forced to remove their traditional haircuts and attires, their entire cultural identity, and must cut their hair and dress in the western school uniforms if they want to be allowed to attend governmental schools. Many of our children refuse to do this. This school uniform rule is causing an enormous stress for our people, as we fear this will cause the loss of our culture and traditions by forcing our youth to change. Many of us don’t send our children to school, because we do not want that. Also, we are compelled to pay school fees and the uniforms that many of us cannot afford.

We, the undersigning chiefs urge the UN and the World to intervene and help us and our people in our plight.

OUR DEMANDS:

We demand that our Kaokoland to be legally recognized by the state as our territory, that we have traditionally occupied and owned for centuries.

We insist that the Government of Namibia must stop without delay the implementation of the Communal Land Reform Act (Act 5 of 2002) that is resulting in the fencing off of our land and grabbing in our Kaokoland.

We demand that the Government of Namibia remove those foreign invaders in our territory that have illegally grabbed parts of our land without our consent.

We further demand that Namibia halts its plans to build a dam downstream of Epupa in Baynes Mountains.

We demand the mining companies to be removed from our territory, and or otherwise we must be included in the entire process of giving out the mining permits and to o the access on the benefits.

We insist that the Government of Namibia cease and desist from further interference, manipulations and disempowerment of our customary tribal ancestral institutions.

We demand that our traditional governance structure to be fully respected and our traditional leaders without delay to be re-installed and recognized as traditional authorities of Kaokoland by the Government without delay.

We demand that the school laws to be amended to become culturally appropriate. We are opposed to our children being forced to remove their traditional customary attire in favor of a Western school uniform, if they want to attend school. Our children must have the right to remain with their cultural identity while receiving good education. We further demand that our children be taught in our own language, while receiving highly qualified English lessons that would ensure that they speak and write the mainstream language well.

We demand that we can cross, trade, sell and buy freely back and forth of the borders of Angola and Namibia.

We are one people, and not to be separated and limited by borders.

We demand better health care and more hospitals and clinics in our areas, and that translation into our language is always facilitated.

Chief Hikuminue Kapika, area of Okanguati

Chief Hosea Tjimuine, area of Otjondeka

Chief Ronald Mumbuu, area of Ombombo

Chief Thimoteus Kututa, area of Ombepera

Chief Gerson Razapi Kavari, area of Otavi (Okaoko)

Chief Festus Uetupa Ndjai, area of Okorosave

Chief Mbuze Uatiza Tjijeura, area of Otjerunda

Chief Mujazire Ngumbi Tjambiru, area of Etanga

Chief Frans Uazeuerike Tjauira, area of Okarivizu

Chief Herunga Jakise, area of Otuvero

Chief Kaahazongoro Mbunguha, area of Otjiu

Chief Rikius Kujambera, area of Ondore

Chief Kautaurua Maundu, area of Otjivero

Chief Veimba Muharukua, area of Ongongo

Chief Matheus Veenduavi Ruhozu, area of Oukongo

Chief Cornelius Tjiheiue Tjondu, area of Orokapare

Chief Muhihamo Tjindunda, area of Ehomba

Chief Maemujeka Mbendura, area of Epembe

Chief Hijamavare Mbinge, area of Oruvandjei

Chief Uatembua Muharukua, area of Ozohaviria

Chief Jonas Ngombe, area of Orotjitombo

Chief Hijazomanga Musaso, area of Ongango

Chief Muhomure Tjipuiko, area of Omuangete

Chief Uezuvanjo Tjihange, area of Ovijere

Chief Uaandjerua Tjisuta, area of Ekoto

Chief Tjinae Tjingee, area of Otjikojo

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To download the original signed Declaration click here:

http://earthpeoples.org/DECLARATION_HIMBA.pdf

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To view photos of the human rights four day long meeting of the Himba Chiefs click here
To view photos Himba chiefs signing their Declaration click here

DECLARATION OF THE MOST DIRECTLY AFFECTED OVAHIMBA, OVATWA, OVATJIMBA AND OVAZEMBA AGAINST THE OROKAWE DAM IN THE BAYNES MOUNTAINS

Friday, February 24th, 2012

February 7, 2012

Omuhonga, Namibia

When Namibia wanted to build the Epupa dam, we objected.

Today, we object again, this time to the new plans of the Government of Namibia to build a dam, this time at Orokawe in our Baynes Mountains. We, the directly affected Indigenous Peoples day NO! We made in several meetings between the government and us our refusal also to this dam very clear. At the most important big meeting in Opuwo end of 2011 with high level governmental authorities we made again our collective objection very clear.

We don’t understand why we have to repeat ourselves over and over again, and the Government of Namibia is not listening to us, and is continuing to push for the construction of the dam without our consent. We collectively refused the money offered to those communities and families that would have to relocate.

If the government is going to build the dam they better kill us first before they do that. This is our land. We are the original inhabitants and true owners of the area that would be destroyed and flooded by the dam.

But since independence, the Government of Namibia has dispossessed us from our rights to our land, and our rights to decide what is being done with and on it.

That is a direct violation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), Article 4, 8(2b), 26 and 27.

Our traditional leaders, our representatives that we choose, are not recognized by the Government of Namibia, violating again the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Article 4, 5, 18, 19, 20, 32, 33, 34, 38. Because we are not allowed to choose our own representatives, and they are not recognized, we are made voiceless.

If they build the dam even so we strongly object to it, many of us will drown ourselves in the dam. Others of us will fight, and Namibia will find civil war in our area.

We don’t want an influx of strangers that will come with the construction of the dam. Many will settle, taking away our grazing areas as it happens already in other parts of our Kaokoland.

We don’t want the negative impact that comes with such large scale construction i.e.: Tart roads, large trucks, shops owned by strangers, foreign traders, big town, prostitution, crime, theft, diseases, and the loss and destruction of land, and the flooding of our graveyards of our ancestors.

We don’t want the river being blocked. Water is life. The fish, turtles and crocodiles will suffer. Some may die.

It is not only us objecting to this dam. The people from Angola that would be affected by the dam strongly object to it as well.

We demand that the Government of Namibia halts immediately any further plans to construct the Baynes Site dam without our free, prior and informed consent.

We request that Namibia allows the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights and fundamental freedoms of Indigenous Peoples to visit us.

We insist that the president of Namibia, the Minister of mines and Energy, the Ombudsman and other relevant high level officials conduct a meeting with us without delay, in our area, on our soil. But without police and military forces that we don’t want here. (UNDRIP Article 30)

We have the right to be fully informed. (UNDRIP Article 13, 18, 19)

In the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that was adopted by Namibia it is clearly stated in Article 10, that we should not be forcibly removed and relocated from our land and territory. Article 32 states that the government must consult and cooperate in good faith with us to obtain our free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting us and our land.

We have the right to our land (UNDRIP Article 26, 27)

This Declaration of the most affected tribes if the dam would be build is signed by us, the Chiefs of the area in question, and their Senior Councilors and our respected community Elders.

Chief Hikuminae Kapika, area Epupa and Omuhonga

Chief Tjinae Tjingee, area Otjikojo

Elder from Omuhonga, Kambiriyere Kapika

Elder from Omuhonga, Motjimbika Mutambo

Senior Councilor Muhapika Munjombara, area Epupa

Senior Councilor Matumbuyani Kapika, area Omuhonga

Senior Councilor Yapimbiyapo Tyaombe, area Omuhonga

Senior Councilor Yararaike Tjingee, area Omuhonga

Senior Councilor Vatako Hembinda, area Omuhoro

Senior CouncilorVatundauka Ngumbi, area Omuhonga

Senior Councilor Mbasekama Ngombe, area Omuhonga

Senior Councilor Mbyangue Tjiposa, area Okanguati

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To download the original signed Himba Declaration against the Orokawe Dam, click here:

http://earthpeoples.org/HIMBA_DECLARATION_DAM.pdf

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PHOTOS of the Himba leaders in Omuhonga signing their Declaration
PHOTOS of theHuman Rights meeting in Omuhonga that resulted in their Declaration against the dam.
PHOTOSOmuhonga village

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DECLARATION OF THE ZEMBA PEOPLE OF NAMIBIA

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Ruacana, Namibia, 12 February 2012

We, the Zemba tribe, are one of the indigenous peoples of Namibia. We have our own distinct culture, tradition, legal and political institutions, and we speak our own unique language. We are also known as Zimba as well as Dhimba, but we do call ourselves Zemba.

We have distinct cultural practices, such as the unique hairstyles and attires of our women use of beadwork, that distinguish us from other tribes in Namibia, while some of our practices are similar to those of the Himba. We perform male circumcision, we break four of our lower front teeth and file our two upper front teeth, we have our own style to sing and dance that is very different from the other tribes, and have female and matrimonial ceremonies.

When the Europeans invaded Africa they demarcated our continent into countries and borders, regardless of the original people that lived there, we were speciffically negatively affected, as our people always lived on both sides of the Kunene River, that is now devided by the country borders of current Angola, to the north, and Namibia to the south.

We always lived for centuries in the southern part of current Angola, and in the North Western part of current Namibia.

We are the original inhabitants of a specific area in current Namibia. We have our oral history and knowledge about the traditional boundaries of our territory, as well as our graveyards and settlements that exist to this day. Even so the Government of Namibia wants to deny us our right to belong to Namibia, and our right to our land. We are from these areas and villages, that are located within the country borders of current Namibia, and we have lived here for centuries, way back and even before Namibia became an independent country : Otjitungathitu, Omindamba, Eundo (Eunda), Olwaziva, Omakuva, Omaenene, Omikuyu, Ontoko, Otjozongunde (Etunda), Okapa-KaHangula, Olyonyime, Okapika, Ondjombo Tjihitwa, Ozonawa, Omindjove, Ozondenge, Okazandu, Ozongalahi, Ouhongo, Ruacana (Ruhakana), Omuzu-uahauuanga, Ombuumbuu, Okatjene, Otjovanatje, Omangundi, Otjaandjamwinyo, Omunawatjihozu Otjimanangombe, Etoto Okombungu, Otjekwa, Ovitwambu, Okawapehuri, Orupaka, Okalele, Ozombu, Orue.

Some of us settled more than 200 years as invited permanent guests of the Himba tribe deep into Kaokoland, in villages such as Epupa, Orokaue, Otutati, Orotjitombo, Ovinyange, Omaanda, Okapara, Okangwati, and Otjaandawe.

The Zemba people and and the Himba people always had good relations with each other, therefore you can find to this day that we are sometimes living in the same villages in current Angola and the current Namibia.

Traditionally, our leaders ruled over our people on both sides of the Kunene River, as we are, and have always been, one people, one tribe, one Zemba. But today we suffer by being devided by the countries borders, and are not allowed to associate freely with our relatives on both sides of these artificial borders.

In the past our appointed leaders had to belong to the royal house, but that has changed over the time. Today, we elect our leaders. But to our great grievance, Namibia denies us not only our rightful place as legitimate Namibian citizens, with untrue claims that we are refugees from Angola, but also denies us our right to our land, and to choose our own representatives and leaders.

In the 1990s we began our never ending struggle for recognition as a distinct tribe (Indigenous people of Namibia) by the new Government of Namibia. We demanded that our chief, the leader that we choose, must be recognized as well. We lodged the appropiate applications that the newly formed government requested in terms of relevant law. We met all the requirements.

But the Government of Namibia, ruled by SWAPO Party, that is comprised of the majority ethnic group of Namibia (Owambo), played a very cruel, unfair game with us.

In 1997, we nearly succeeded, as our application was approved and the inauguration of our chief was supposed to be done officially.As the Zemba were preparing the ceremony of our chief’s inauguration, the Uukolonkadhi Traditional Authority approached the Government of Namibia to reject our application again, even so it was already approved. Most disturbing and humiliating for us Zemba was that the withdrawal of the prior authorized recognition was done by police forces. During the day of the inauguration of our chief, the ceremony was disturbed by the Uukolonkadhi tribe, people were beaten up, foods and beverage for the ceremony was looted and some people were kept hostage, private properties were confiscated.

The withdrawal was based on claims by the Uukolonkdhi tribe’s leader, who claimed that the Zemba people are subject to his rulership. We Zemba do not share the same culture, and do not speak the language of the Uukolonkadhi. And it is not their original land and territory, it is ours.

To this day we are under their rule, we are oppressed, landless, have no recognized leader by the state and we are made voiceless. Because we are not allowed to have our own representatives within the decision making structure of the government of Namibia, our dignity and liberty is undermined, and we have no way to determine our own future. We are a distinct people, on our own land, we are forcefully being subjected to the Uukolokadhi traditional authority and law, against our will. Our traditional territory is being privatized, and fenced off without our consent and we are not even asked for our opinion.

The boundaries of the current Omusati Region was shifted into some part of the Kunene Region with the clear aim to cover all the villages in which the Zemba and Himba people reside to be subjected under the rule and oppression of the Uukolonkadhi Traditional Authority.

Because our people, landrights, and leaders are not recognized by the Government of Namibia, we the indigenous Zemba people face so much inhuman treatment. We literally have no rights at all. We studied the last two days for the first time the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We have none of the rights that are outlined in the UN Declaration.

We very seriously need help. Otherwise our people will be forced to assimilate and we will loose what we have, our language, culture, tradition and identity. We are pushed away everywhere. Without land that we own, and where we can rule our internal affairs, we will vanish as a people sooner or later.

In the schools our children must remove their traditional attires. There is no provision for the promotion of our mother language and our youth is being taught in other languages as the first language like in Oshiwambo. They are left behind, and suffer not only from the forced loss of their cultural identity and mother language, but also from not being able to fully understand what is being taught, as they do not speak English as well as their mother language.

The Government of Namibia plans to build a hydroelectric dam, in Orokawe at the Kunene River, where Zemba and Himba are living. Our people support the resistance from the true owners of that land where the dam would be build, it belongs to the Himba people.

Ruacana that is in the traditional Zemba and Himba territory where the electricity and water is sourced to Oshakati and other towns and the entire country, we the Zemba and also Himba communities are currently not benefiting from these sources. These projects are promoted as development for the citizens of Namibia, but they are in reality the opposite of development for us. These projects have been taking our peoples grazing land.

Therefore, we the undersigned hereby declare that we are Namibians and as such we are entitled to recognition as a distinct indigenous people.

We demand therefore that the Government of Namibia recognizes us as an indigenous people, a tribe called Zemba, to be officially part of Namibia. We demand that all of our people, that live and reside in Namibia, are legally recognized as Namibian citizens, and to be given a Namibian citizenship without delay.

We demand that the Government of Namibia grant us our legal territorial landright to the areas that we have mentioned above and total control over our territory that we have traditionally inhabited for many generations. We also want to retain the historical names of our villages.

We demand that we get our right to choose our own representatives and leaders, and to be allowed to administer our internal affairs, including our territory and land, and to rule our affairs with our own customary laws and traditional courts.

We demand that the Government of Namibia recognizes without delay our chief as the legally recognized Zemba Traditional Authority.

We demand that our children be taught in their mother language as the first language in schools. They also must receive good education to learn to speak and write well the main stream language, English.

We demand free movement between the borders where we Zemba are living in Namibia and Angola.

We demand our natural resources to be left under our control e.g water and electricity from Kunene River.

We demand that Namibia allows the UN Special Rapportuer on the rights and fundamental freedoms of Indigenous peoples to enter Namibia and to visit us.

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To download the original signed Zemba Declaration click here:

http:/earthpeoples.org/DECLARATION__ZEMBA.pdf

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To view photos of the Zemba in Ruacana signing their Declaration, click here:, click here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/society_for_threatened_peoples_international/sets/72157629431198869/