Archive for March, 2013

THE DECLARATION OF SANTO DOMINGO TOMALTEPEC SEPTEMBER 30TH, 2012 “LA LUCHA SIGUE, EL MAIZ VIVE” (THE STUGGLE CONTIUNES, THE CORN LIVES)

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

THE DECLARATION OF SANTO DOMINGO TOMALTEPEC SEPTEMBER 30TH, 2012 “LA LUCHA SIGUE, EL MAIZ VIVE” (THE STUGGLE CONTIUNES, THE CORN LIVES)

Corn (Photo © Earth Peoples)

Corn (Photo © Earth Peoples)

Indigenous Corn Peoples from 48 Indigenous Nations, Peoples and communities from North, Central, South America, the Pacific and Caribbean gathered at the “Indigenous Peoples International Conference on Corn” in the territory of the Zapoteca Nation, Santo Domingo Tomaltepec Oaxaca Mexico, from September 28th – 30th as well as at two preparatory gatherings in Vicam, Sonora and San Francisco Magu, Mexico.

We affirm our unity as Corn Peoples and Nations. Since time immemorial corn in all its rich diversity has nurtured and fed us as the basis of our cultures, spirituality, health, traditional economies and food sovereignty. It is the sacred source of life and creation for Indigenous Peoples in many regions of the world.

The health and survival of our corn mother/father in all its natural varieties, colors and original strength and resilience cannot be separated from the health and survival of our Peoples. Our struggles to protect corn as a source of our lives cannot be separated from our struggles to defend our rights to land, water, traditional knowledge and self-determination.

We affirm the Declaration of Atitlan of 2002, “IN AGREEMENT that the content of the Right to Food of Indigenous Peoples is a collective right based on our special spiritual relationship with Mother Earth, our lands and territories, environment, and natural resources that provide our traditional nutrition; underscoring that the means of subsistence of Indigenous Peoples nourishes our cultures, languages, social life, worldview, and especially our relationship with Mother Earth; emphasizing that the denial of the Right to Food for Indigenous Peoples not only denies us our physical survival, but also denies us our social organization, ourcultures, traditions, languages, spirituality, sovereignty, and total identity; it is a denial of our collective indigenous existence.

We also affirm other Declarations by Indigenous Peoples for the protection of our Food sovereignty including Declaración de Vicente Guerrero, paragraphs 13 and 14 of the Anchorage Declaration, the Declaration of Atitlán, the Declarations from 1st and 2nd International Indigenous Women’s’ Symposiums on Environmental and Reproductive Health, and the “Declaration of Seed Sovereignty A Living Document for New Mexico”.

This struggle is not an easy one. The institutions of colonization, as well as the mining, biotechnology and chemical corporations, are well financed. Their activities are organized with sole objective of profiting from our lands and resources without consideration for the impact on our health or survival, or the wellbeing of Mother Earth and future generations. We reject this worldview which has caused so much suffering and destruction. We also reject the commodification and genetic modification of corn as an offense against our spiritual and cultural identity. We call instead for a focus on the sustainable and respectful use of corn as a basis for our traditional and collective economic, social and cultural development.

The increasing concentration of land, water, seeds, financing and genetic resources in the hands of a few multi-national corporations, and the proliferation of extractive industries, mega-projects and industrial agriculture, together with the causes, effects and false solutions to climate change including agro-fuel production using corn, are direct threats to our corn and all aspects of our traditional food production.

In exercise of our self-determination we affirm the right to define and continue our own forms of development, including our food and seed sovereignty. We also affirm the urgent need to revitalize our Indigenous trading relationships in order to once again share and exchange seeds, knowledge and traditional food products. The methods and seeds passed down to us from our ancestors hold the key to our resistance and survival in the face of climate change and a number of other threats. Corn will continue to be the source of our survival.

We also affirm that the solutions to the threats we face are within our Indigenous Peoples. We will continue to be engaged with the United Nations, institutions such as schools and universities and all levels of government to demand the implementation of laws and policies that protect rather than violate our rights and the integrity of corn and other life-giving traditional plants and animals. But we will not depend on them, or wait for them to change in order to take steps to protect our ways of life. We commit to immediate and urgent actions within our own communities and Nations, calling on support from our Traditional Indigenous governments, to ensure that the use of our traditional seeds and knowledge is revitalized and passed on to our future generations.

Accepting collective commitments and coordinated actions as Corn Peoples from many regions will give us strength and mutual support, and provide a basis for continued seed and knowledge exchange. This is our right, and our sacred responsibility.

Therefore we resolve with one voice to carry out the following actions.

1) Restore and strengthen our traditional local economies, governing structures, laws and authorities for the protection of corn and food sovereignty;

2) Restore and transmit to future generations the traditional methods for revitalizing the earth and growing food with approaches using Indigenous science proven by our peoples since time immemorial, with respect to relationships of the moon-sun, nature-earth, water-rain, female-male, and the life giving properties of seeds and mother corn;

3) Re-establish Indigenous seed banks/seed archives and trade relationships for traditional corn seeds, especially those with resistance and adaptability to changing climate conditions and promote the development and implementation of community based plans for adaptation to climate change;

4) Form cooperative relations to support the creation of Indigenous marketing and “value added” production opportunities based on sustainable, community and collective values for Indigenous farmers and

food producers on the local, regional, national and international levels, focusing on corn and other local products produced using original seeds, traditional and organic farming;

5) Organize our communities and Peoples to take action to defend our mother earth, lands and water, forests, corn and other traditional foods and medicines, and ensure that Indigenous Peoples struggling for such rights are protected as human rights defenders;

6) Continue to oppose the use and modification of corn and other basic and traditional food products for bio-fuels on the local, national and international levels;

7) Call for the immediate halt to all genetic modification of corn, and adopt community resolutions, with the support of our tribal leaders and traditional authorities as well as organizations, prohibiting the use of genetically modified seeds in our lands and territories; Support Indigenous communities such as those in Tlaxcala Mexico and Pueblos in New Mexico USA that have implemented GMO-free zones, and encourage similar actions by other Indigenous Peoples in all regions; and resist and oppose the patenting of corn and other traditional foods and medicines;

8 Stand firm to halt to the use of toxic pesticides in or near our territories including the production, export and import of pesticides by the US and other countries which are banned for use in the exporting country, a form of “trafficking,” which constitutes environmental violence and racism and causes untold amounts of death, illness and loss. We challenge national and International laws, including the UN Rotterdam Convention which permits this practice, and call upon the government of Mexico and other States to implement their human rights obligations by halting the import of banned pesticides. We support the continued implementation of the declaration by the Yaqui Traditional Authorities prohibiting aerial spraying of pesticides in the Yaqui Territories (Sonora), the total rejection of pesticides use by the community of San Pedro Jocotipac (Oaxaca) and encourage other Indigenous communities to take similar actions;

9) Promote the recommendation of UN CERD addressing the US and Canada that countries are responsible for human rights violations by corporations they license. We call on the IITC to prepare, in collaboration with affected communities, a shadow report to the CERD for the next review of the US in 2013 regarding the export of banned and restricted pesticides and GMO seeds, as well as the attempt by US corporations to control the traditional seeds of Indigenous Peoples;

10) Pressure States and UN Bodies to fully implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including its recognition of our rights to lands, resources and territories, means of subsistence, environmental protection, Free Prior and Informed Consent, Treaties and Agreements, traditional knowledge including seeds, spiritual relationship to land and water, and all other rights relevant to the protection of our corn and our seed and food sovereignty;

11) Promote the implementation of the UN Declaration within all UN and other International and Regional agencies, institutions and processes, as well as the national level, including the current processes such as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, implementation of the FAO Voluntary Guidelines of Land Tenure, Forests and Fisheries, the Stockholm Convention and the new globally binding international instrument on Mercury;

12) Educate and provide opportunities for sharing experiences in and among our communities, including women and youth, though assemblies, trainings, workshops and development of materials, including in indigenous languages and using various forms of media about the dangers of genetically modified seeds, chemical pesticides and fertilizers to human and environmental health, as well as relevant human rights and ways to defend our corn and food sovereignty;

13) Implement in tribal or state run schools which our children and youth attend, and in our own communities, opportunities for them to learn from traditional knowledge holders and practitioners, their traditional language and also food production knowledge and practices;

14) Initiate and organize an Indigenous Peoples Food Sovereignty Network on the National and International levels, co-coordinated by the IITC and others who are interested, to continue exchanging knowledge, information and seeds, and coordinating mutual support, gatherings, educational activities, and joint campaigns to address threats and defend our food sovereignty, land, water and natural environment; and make alliances for participation and information exchange with other Food Sovereignty Networks on the national, regional and International levels;

15) Develop and promote alliances with Indigenous Peoples as well as non- indigenous organizations, campesinos and other food producers, local, state and national governmental bodies, legislators, parliamentarians and academic institutions to build understanding and support and advance polices that respect and defend Indigenous Peoples’ perspectives about corn and other traditional foods;

16) Disseminate this Declaration in our own communities and Nations, and call on the International Indian Treaty Council to take this Declaration, its recommendations and the issues it addresses to International and regional bodies relevant to the defense of human rights, health, environment, sustainable development, Food Sovereignty, Culture and Indigenous Peoples. These include UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

We will keep our hearts and our commitments strong, knowing that we share the threats, but also the spiritual connections and the solutions. We know that the change we need begins with us and our Peoples.

We thank the community of Santo Domingo Tomaltepec for their warm hospitality, and the International Indian Treaty Council and the Unidad de la Fuerza Indigena y Campesina for their coordination of this historic gathering.

We make these commitments for the survival of our future generations with gratitude for the profound knowledge and wisdom of our ancestors and the sacred spirit of corn which has sustained and will continue to sustain us. We will move forward and continue to defend our lives and survival. Standing together will make us stronger. Life is the only choice and the only option.

Adopted by Consensus September 30th, 2012, Santo Domingo Tomaltepec, Oaxaca Mexico

Indigenous Peoples Stand Up to Save Native Corn

Sunday, March 31st, 2013
Seeds (Photo © Earth Peoples)

Seeds (Photo © Earth Peoples)

From time immemorial, indigenous communities in the Western Hemisphere have depended on corn not only as a source of nutrition, but as the center of their cultural traditions and spirituality. This past September, the Yaqui Peoples of Sonora Mexico hosted the inaugural “Indigenous Peoples International Conference on Corn” in the Zapoteca Nation of Oaxaca Mexico. The conference, attended by 48 Indigenous Nations across from North, Central and South America, was created to encourage unity among indigenous communities, restore traditional economies, and ensure the survival of all native varieties of corn.

The Indigenous Corn Peoples are a part of long-standing cultural tradition tied to the natural world. The core principle of the Yaqui Peoples, “is the sacredness, mystery and life-sustaining power of the natural world and living things.” They are deeply connected to their environment and express this through traditional ceremonies, songs, and dances. They consider their relationship with plants and animals as inter-dependent and interwoven. It’s for this reason that corn, the fundamental means of nutrition and healing, is so respected and cherished. In indigenous communities, the people are directly related to all steps of the corn production process. Before the planting of the corn, there are ceremonies to express appreciation for the earth that allows the corn to be planted and for the water to allows it to grow. When it is time to harvest the corn there is a ceremony celebrating corn as the source of life and creation. The harvesting of corn isn’t simply to acquire food, but celebrates the all-encompassing lifestyle of devotion to the earth. One member of the Yaqui reiterates: “Our struggles to protect corn as a source of our lives cannot be separated from our struggles to defend our rights to land, water, traditional knowledge and self-determination.”

Environmental degradation is a global issue, but for the Yaqui community, it comes with devastating consequences. The booming agri-business has not only pushed many Indigenous communities off of their land, but also heavily promoted the use of chemical pesticides and genetically modified (GMO) corn. The Mexican government has been a source of conflict, creating programs that cut off access to land and clean water, and mandating the use of this GMO corn for small farmers. The introduction of these corn variations has dramatically decreased the diversity and resiliency of traditional seed varieties. The new strains of corn require much higher levels of agro-chemicals and water, which the Sonora desert ecosystem cannot provide. These negative effects aren’t only environmental. In 1997 Dr. Elizabeth Guillette conducted a study that detected high levels of pesticides in mothers’ milk and found severe learning and development disabilities in Yaqui children living in these high pesticide areas. The Yaqui people started the Corn Conference as a way to gain support of Indigenous Corn Peoples from the area and to stop the environmental, cultural, and health degradation.

The Indigenous Peoples International Conference on Corn created an atmosphere where all Indigenous Corn Peoples could unite around a single mission to protect their sovereignty and identity. They called “for a new focus on sustainable and respectful use of corn as a basis for our traditional and collective economic, social and cultural development”. The Indigenous Corn Peoples committed to halt the use of pesticides and GMO corn in their territories. They also resolved for all communities to focus on restoring and strengthening local markets and economies by protecting their food and seed sovereignty. The conference attendees decided that the way to do this is by reestablishing Indigenous seed banks and trade relationships so that the seeds with the most resistance and adaptability to climate change can be used, replicated, and shared among communities. They believe that the renewal of an indigenous trading system in the Americas will be the most beneficial way to share knowledge across communities and ultimately, bring change.

Although the conference was only one step in the movement for Indigenous rights, the Yaqui ultimately achieved their greatest goal: to organize fellow Indigenous communities and Peoples to defend Mother Earth and her lands, water, forests and corn against the threat climate change and unsustainable industrial food practices. By embracing their heritage as Indigenous Peoples to protect mother earth, they are also protecting the culture, spirituality, health, and traditions that have been passed on to them for centuries from being lost forever.

Tanzania: Land Grab Could Spell ‘The End of the Maasai and the Serengeti’

Saturday, March 30th, 2013

Maasai (Photo © Earth Peoples)

Maasai (Photo © Earth Peoples)

The Maasai have lost so much of their land, they cannot afford to lose any more

The Tanzanian government this week announced a new ‘conservation’ area on Maasai lands, which community leader Samwel Nangiria says will spell ‘the end of the Maasai and the Serengeti ecosystem’.

The Maasai have been bitterly opposed to the grabbing of their village lands in Loliondo division by the government and have sworn to fight to keep their land.

The dramatic landscape of the Serengeti is world famous as a safari holiday destination. To the Maasai, however, this land is home, and they have already been removed from much of their lands in the name of conservation.

Although the government claims that the land is needed as a corridor for wildlife to move between the Serengeti National Park and the Maasai Mara National Park in Kenya, the area was leased to a safari hunting company, the Otterlo Business Corporation (OBC) in 1992.

The Maasai and their animals are being told to leave in the interests of conservation, while wealthy tourists are allowed to hunt the ‘big game’ that roams the area. The Maasai have been resisting the takeover of their land by OBC for years.

In 2009, villages were razed and livestock lost when they were removed from the land leased to OBC. The situation has festered for years and the government has announced this change as the ‘solution’. But the Maasai have lost so much of their land to conservation, hunting and tourism, they cannot afford to lose any more.

The whole community, including local politicians, will be holding their ‘most important meeting ever’ in Loliondo today to decide on a united plan to protect their lands and way of life.

German GIZ directly engaged with dispossessing indigenous peoples of their lands and territories in Namibia

Friday, March 29th, 2013

By Earth Peoples

The history of the Germans invading, oppressing, enslaving, exploiting, and ruthlessly killing the people of Namibia is an extremely shameful one.

It is important to understand Germany’s terrible past, to consider why especially German involvement through it’s GIZ agency in support of Namibia’s Land Reform efforts are highly inappropriate.

Herero genocide survivors (Ullstein-bilderdienst-berlin)

Herero genocide survivors (Ullstein-bilderdienst-berlin)

To ensure monopoly rights to exploit mineral deposits in Namibia, German bankers, industrialists and politicians illegally and fraudulently founded the German South-West Africa (Deutsch-Südwestafrika, DSWA) as a colony of the German Empire from 1884 until 1915. The colonial aim was to dispossess the people of their land, for use of German settlers, as well as a source of raw materials and a market of German industrial products.

Under Bismark’s policy, an (il)legal system of the German colony was passed, creating a dual system with laws for Europeans and different laws for the original people of the land.

Countless uprisings took place against German rule, well before the Herero and Nama wars of 1903-1907, that lead to the first genocide of the 20th century, known as the Herero and Namaqua genocide – done by the Germans.

1915, the German South-West Africa colony was taken over by the Union of South Africa (as part of the British Empire) and administered as South-West Africa, until Namibia became impendent in 1990 and the youngest member state of the United Nations until recently.

In 2004, the German government recognized and apologized for the genocide, but has ruled out financial compensation for the victims’ descendants.

Today, Germany’s governmental development aid agency GIZ priority areas of activities in Namibia are economical development and management of natural resources.

San people in Namibia

San people in Namibia

Indigenous peoples, Himba and Zemba, told Earth Peoples that they experience Namibia’s land reform laws as a push to privatize their land. They call it the “land grab reform”.

Once again, Germany, through GIZ’s political and financial engagement with Namibia’s Land reform laws and policies is directly involved to dispossess indigenous peoples from their traditional lands and territories.

Himba Ovahimba – Ovatwa, Khoikhoi – Nama, Khoisan- San, Zemba – Tjimba are in urgent need for legal recognition of their collective land rights. As much as one may think that this is exactly what Namibia’s Government is thriving to do, and that communal land use laws, programmes and policies are ensuring just that, you got it partly right, but also utterly wrong.

Zemba girl with handmade doll (Photo © Rebecca Somer)

Zemba girl with handmade doll (Photo © Rebecca Somer)

Through land reform, the Namibian Government aims to redistribute land from the large-scale commercial sector to landless people and those with only marginal access to land. The reform is seen as the prerequisite for social and economic development, and is implemented through two parallel land reform programmes, communal land reform and commercial land reform.

Communal land reform involves “improved” control and regulation of the communal areas or ‘tribal’ land under traditional authority through communal land rights registration, whilst commercial land reform involves the redistribution of commercial farmland into previously disadvantaged hands through the Affirmative Action Loan Scheme and National Resettlement Programme.

This is a good initiative and certainly a step in the right direction, but here is the main PROBLEM:

Himba and Zemba, two indigenous people, have in their view no legitimate representation, because the Government of Namibia doesn’t recognize their traditional leaders, their chiefs, as “Traditional Authority”.

In the case of the Zemba people, the Government of Namibia even suggests that they are not Namibian’s, and should go back to Angola, entirely overlooking that they always lived on both sides of the border, as is the case with San and Himba, and for a matter of fact, the situation of most indigenous peoples that never had a say when state borders were created. The traditional chief of the Zemba people, recognized by Zemba people, is also not recognized as a “traditional authority”by Namibia.

To enter into complicated details, it seems that all Namibian tribes migrated once upon a time from other areas into current Namibia. Khoisan also known as Bushmen, or Hai//om (people who live around Etosha National Park) are the original people that lived there before anyone else of the tribes arrived that exist in today’s Namibia.

But let’s not discuss here what came first, the egg or the chicken.

As long as the situation of legitimate “traditional authority” recognition is not ensured by the state, and the legal recognition of indigenous peoples traditional territory in its entire, of the Himba and any other indigenous peoples, and the implementation of international human rights standards pertaining to indigenous peoples, GIZ should not engage with Namibia’s land reform processes.

Not as long as they take the land rights away from the indigenous peoples that wish to maintain their identity as a people, that are holding on to their way of life according to their ancestors.

But let the indigenous peoples themselves explain to you:

Watch Video here:

HIMBA chiefs oppressed and not recognized by Namibia

Watch Video:

Councilor of Epupa Constituency- HON. NGUZU MUHARUKUA and Himba leaders explains the Problems of HIMBA people in Namibia

Another video about the problems with the non-recognition of the traditional Himba leaders as “Traditional Authority” and the Communal Land Reform Act:
WATCH Video:

TRADITIONAL HIMBA LEADERS OBJECT TO NAMIBIA’S OPPRESSION

And this is what the Himba people’s traditional leaders are saying about the negative impact of the Communal Land Reform in their Human Rights Complaint Declaration, that was submitted to the United Nations, African Union, as well as to the President of Namibia:

” 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 with the Court order to this very day, and we remain 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.”

To read the entire Traditional Himba leader’s Declaration, click here

Himna and Zemba protested for a third time in the past months, for the reason of the negative impact of the Land Reform Act on their land rights, as well as other human rights violations, including the lack of implementation of their Free, Prior and informed consent (FPIC) which has been ignored by the state while pushing forward with plans to construct a hydroelectric dam on their territory in the Baynes Mountains’ Kunene River.
To read about their protest, click here.

And to end on a more positive note, here a visual manifestation of Himba culture:

WATCH Video:

HIMBA DANCE in Omuhonga, Kaokoland desert, Namibia (February 2012)

Nama huts in Namibia (Photo creative commons)

Nama huts in Namibia (Photo creative commons)

VIDEO: San people endless legal battle to live in peace on their land

Thursday, March 28th, 2013
San people removed from their land (Roy Sesana), Botswana(VIDEO Earth Peoples)

San people removed from their land (Roy Sesana), Botswana(VIDEO Earth Peoples)

Watch Earth Peoples Video:
San people removed from their land (Roy Sesana), Botswa

Updates on Kalahari Bushmen launch new legal battle:

The Bushmen are taking the Botswana government to court for the third time in their struggle to live in peace on their land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

Bushmen in Botswana are taking the government to court for illegally refusing them access to their ancestral land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR). Approximately 700 Bushmen who were evicted from the CKGR in 2002 won a marathon High Court battle in 2006 for the right to return, but the government has since done everything it can to limit the number of Bushmen who can live there.

– The government claims the ruling applies only to the 189 Bushmen named in the original court papers – it refuses to allow the others to enter the reserve without a permit. Permits last just a month, after which the Bushmen risk arrest if they ‘overstay’.

– Even the children of the 189 Bushmen named in the court papers are only allowed free entry to the reserve up to the age of 16, after which they too are only allowed in on month-long permits.

– Wildlife scouts are prohibiting the passage of livestock and donkeys essential for transport.

– No Bushmen have been given hunting permits in the reserve, making their subsistence hunting impossible.

In 2006 Botswana’s High Court ruled that the Bushmen have the right to live and hunt in the CKGR, without having to apply for permits to enter it.

One Bushman told Survival, ‘[Having to apply for a permit] makes me feel homeless. We don’t know when we will be stopped or our permits taken away. I want to be at my own home and not have to depend on someone else’s permission to be there.’

This will be the third time the Bushmen have been forced to resort to the courts in their struggle to live in peace on their land.

The historic 2006 judgement confirmed that the Bushmen have the right to live and hunt inside the CKGR – without having to apply for permits to enter it.

Harassment, intimidation and arrests of Bushmen for hunting have also been on the rise in recent months. In November last year, two Bushmen were badly beaten and tortured for hunting, and three Bushmen children were arrested for carrying antelope meat in January.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said, ‘The government is continuing to defy Botswana’s highest court and its constitution, for no apparent purpose. The people of Botswana are hardly likely to welcome another complete waste of taxpayers’ money on fighting yet another court case. The government has been trying to evict the Bushmen for over 30 years. Isn’t it about time that Botswana’s first citizens were allowed to live on their own land in peace?’

Article © Cultural Survival

Response from Parihaka to Oil and Gas Industry by The People Of Parihak

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Poutūterangi 2013

To the United Nations, Todd Energy, Cue Energy, New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals, the Ministry of Economic Development, the Department of Labour, the Energy Minister, the Taranaki Regional Council, the New Plymouth and South Taranaki District Councils and all companies holding permits or contracted to operate or profit from Petroleum works in our environment:

Ngā mihi,

We are the people of Parihaka, the descendants, morehu and followers of Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi who gather and continue to meet at Parihaka every month on the Rā since the 1870s.

In July 2011 we sent out a Statement of Position outlining our non-consent to the mass expansion of exploratory surveying and drilling for petroleum products in the environment around our papakainga and coastal reserves. This was based on five points that we wish to reiterate here again:

the use of our papakainga and tupuna’s names for permit blocks held by Todd Energy is without our consent and for an activity in direct contrast with our tikanga
We have serious concerns about pollution of our coastline and moana from yet another oil spill, dumping of offshore drilling waste and seismic surveying
We have serious concerns about pollution of land, water, air and aquifers from onshore drilling, disposal of associated wastes, seismic surveying and transportation and storage of hazardous substances such as explosives and drilling additives.
We have grave concerns around the continued and accelerated extraction of fossil fuels and it’s impact on the entire world through pollution and climate change
We have serious concerns for the safety of the drill-site workers and those who transport the hazardous wastes, and especially for those communities who endure the increased traffic, noise, light, threat of well blow-outs and have the wastes dumped in their environment.
We recently discovered that Todd Energy and Cue Energy have removed the names of Tohu and Parihaka from the two aforementioned permit blocks. While we welcome this, Todd and Cue did not come to our table to discuss the matter. Replacement with the names Te Kiri and Kanuka does not appear to have been in consultation with iwi or hapu either. This is not acceptable behaviour.

We welcome Todd and Cue’s surrender of the Tohu and Pungarehu leads in the now labelled ‘Te Kiri PEP 51149’ permit block within which we reside. We however strongly request surrender of the entire permit block and thorough decommissioning of all drilled wells and clean up of those well sites and any dumping grounds associated with them.

In light of these changes, this letter of Response is to reiterate our stance in opposition to these fossil fuel exploration and extraction activities onshore and offshore, especially around our papakainga and coastal reserves.

While there may be short term benefits from petroleum for some, the long-term effects are detrimental to local communities and the world as a whole. Continuing fossil fuel extraction is no longer socially acceptable in the light of these very serious problems. We must all transition to sustainable living now.

We remind you also that under Te Tiriti o Waitangi and He Wakaputanga o Te Rangatiratanga o Niu Tirini and the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples we retain our rights of “tino rangatiratanga” (sovereignty) over our “whenua” (lands), “kainga” (homes) and “taonga katoa” (all that we treasure). Under The Treaty of Waitangi the crown also guaranteed all Maori “exclusive and undisturbed possession of their lands and estates, forests, fisheries and other properties.” All the activities in the five points of this letter are in direct breach of these agreements with the crown. Many wāhi tapu have been damaged or destroyed in Taranaki from earth works for well sites and other activities. At least four oil spills in the last ten years have damaged the ecosystem and denied hapu the ability to eat kaimoana in their rohe for some period of years. The activities also breach international laws of human rights by threatening surety of the necessities of life such as safe, clean drinking water and healthy food. They also breach international laws of the seas which protect these fragile and dwindling ecosystems. They surely breach international agreements around prevention of climate change.

We have had over a hundred years of petroleum exploration and production in the greater Taranaki region which has contributed to the country’s economy and resource base. Councils and government have had the imposed governance of these areas in this time and they have failed to protect the people and environment sufficiently, instead leaving communities subject to company non-disclosure (silencing) orders in return for minimal compensation when things go wrong. We still do not know the true extent of the damages from this industry as the industry is left to monitor itself in most instances. Meanwhile at least one local community in a drilling zone has the highest cancer rate in the country. This is especially worrying as resources dwindle and extraction techniques become more and more dangerous.

To the government: we suggest you cease the permitting of petroleum mining and exploration in our environment. To the regional and district councils: we suggest you cease the granting of resource consents for those mining activities. To the companies: we suggest you cease exploration, extraction and investment in drilling in our environment now.

We call on the United Nations to investigate these breaches of human rights and we call on our thousands of whānau and supporters nationally and internationally to join us in opposing this current mass expansion of petroleum exploration.

Witnessed by:

Rangikotuku Rukuwai, Kaitiaki o Toroānui Marae Maata Wharehoka, Kaitiaki o Te Niho o Te Atiawa Ruakere Hond, Kaikorero o Te Paepae o Te Raukura

BRICS TO SUSTAIN THE OIL-BASED SYSTEM

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Oilwatch International notes that the economic and political formation known by the acronym BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) started as an idea of Goldman Sachs for describing the main emerging markets. It is easy to read as a grouping conceptualized not in the interests of the people or the earth but for the sake of capital accumulation for the 1% and dispossession of the 99%, sustained by a system for the continuing extraction and consumption of fossil fuels.

The world has thus been saddled with yet another arbitrary and artificial multi-lateral collective like the G8, the G20 and whatever other “G” may be dreamt up tomorrow. Generally, such groupings have the role of subverting formal multilateral processes where some possibilities still exist for democratic decision-making. Groupings like the BRICS are like old-boy clubs, bestowing a sense of exclusivity on their members and enticing them to work for the collective interest of the powerful and to the detriment of others. When BRICS collectively gave $75 billion to the IMF in 2012, it was not Europe or the US which lost voting power – but Africa. When BRICS (minus Russia) signed the ‘Copenhagen Accord’ with Washington in 2009, this sleazy deal confirmed that the fossil-fuel addicted economies could continue polluting unabated while the rest of Africa is cooked by climate change.

The governments of the BRICS pretend that they are standing up against neo-colonial and imperial forces. They also suggest that their countries’ corporations compare favourably to the global North’s. These claims have little foundation in reality. The BRICS’ infamous power, oil and other fossil-fuel companies (whether private or state-owned) engage with impunity in the same misbehaviour that foreign transnational companies in the same fields do. They aid repression, drive environmental destruction and harm local livelihoods.

Brazil’s Petrobras, Russia’s Gazprom and Lukoil, India’s CoalIndia Ltd., China’s CNPC and Sinopec, and South Africa’s Sasol, among others, are all extending their reach deep into their continents and beyond, taking advantage of each country’s role as regional hegemon.

Given the definition of the BRICS as a grouping of “markets” rather than societies, it is not surprising the way they are reduced to their products. As Russian analyst Anna Ochkina writes for the Durban “brics-from-below” coalitions: “Brazil is essential for agricultural supplies, China provides cheap labour, India supplies cheap intellectual work force for high tech industries, South Africa provides minerals and Russia supplies minerals, oil and gas. The scale and conditions of provision of these resources for global capital makes BRICS countries essential for the current system” [1].

While the BRICS present themselves as offering benevolence to the territories they plan to economically carve, their own peoples have to endure serious socio-economic, political and civil rights violations. They live with serious inequality, lack of adequate infrastructure, increased levels of violence and other symptoms of development oriented not toward people but rather toward government and corporate profit [2].

Oilwatch views groupings of this ilk as attempting to partition the world into various markets and spheres of influence, and to support each other as they meddle in the affairs of nations they work to exploit and oppress. Blocs like the BRICS are wedges for breaking apart other, more democratic spaces, eroding solidarity and promoting narrow market interests.

This week’s BRICS summit in South Africa will be a key battleground for both emerging and already imperial forces. As the biggest economy on the African continent, South Africa found that it could not stand by and watch while what was the BRIC began a second scramble for Africa, without trying to grab a slice of the pie for itself. And so South Africa forced itself into contention and the BRIC acquired an “S”.

Africa’s minerals and other resources have been objects of desire for plunderers and adventurers of every ilk over the centuries. Of late, land grabs have supplemented the grabbing of other African resources. Through these grabs, BRICS and similar blocs seek to entrench failed neoliberal agendas as well as an already obsolete fossil fuel- and dirty energy-driven civilization. The BRICS do not seem to realize that the destination of their planned drive on wheels of markets driven by dirty investments and the grabbing of resources is a brick wall. Or dead troops in search of their leaders’ mineral interests (as in unfortunate South Africans in the Central African Republic just as BRICS begins its Durban summit).

The grouping of nations into blocs by commodities and financial traders such as Goldman Sachs must rank as one of the most blatant subversions of the collective rights of peoples today. The situation will only be exacerbated by Goldman Sachs’ likely influence over the BRICS Bank proposed at a recent March meeting in South Africa. One leading Johannesburg official at Goldman Sachs is the former governor of the South African Reserve Bank, and Pretoria has requested that it be the host for the new BRICS Bank – which Beijing reportedly supports.

Such a BRICS Bank could only exacerbate the social, economic and environmental chaos already caused in part by multilateral financing. Existing development finance institutions in BRICS countries – like South Africa’s Development Bank of Southern Africa or BNDES, the Brazilian development bank – offer sobering lessons. The spectacular failures of Goldman Sachs, as well as those of other Wall Street companies holding huge stocks of physical commodities such as oil storage tanks, metal warehouses and power plants [3], should send strong signals that their dreams and desires must be repudiated and rejected.

Oilwatch International denounces the contraption called BRICS and all other groupings set up to drive divisive and exploitative agendas around the world. We believe the time has come for the peoples of the countries in groups such as the BRICS, G8, and G20 to demand that their elected leaders shun those harmful blocs that destroy formal multilateral spaces and plunge the world into violence and deeper crises as evidenced by spiralling climate change, financial, economic and food crises.

Namibia: Himba, Zemba reiterate ‘no’ to Baynes dam

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

By: CATHERINE SASMAN, for the Namibian

Why does Government want to build Orokawe Dam by force? (Photo © Earth Peoples)

Why does Government want to build Orokawe Dam by force? (Photo © Earth Peoples)

STANDING THEIR GROUND … Himba and Zemba communities yesterday protested against the planned Baynes hydro-electric dam, and made a plea for Government food relief.

INDIGENOUS Himba and Zemba communities from villages in the Kunene Region held a demonstration at Opuwo yesterday to express their frustration over unrecognised chiefs, illegal fencing of parts of their land, and the implementation of the Communal Land Reform Act of 2002.
Another pressing issue they want to drive home to the powers that be is the planned construction of a hydro-electric project in the Baynes Mountains, which they say would further push them off their land.

The communities staged various demonstrations last year to express their sentiments about these issues, but they feel that they are not being heard.
Rebecca Sommer, a German researcher of the human and natural rights group Earth Peoples, told The Namibian that the groups  signed letters a week ago, one addressed to President Hifikepunye Pohamba and one denouncing a meeting that took place in Windhoek with three members of the Himba community who spent some time in Windhoek to get clarity on the Baynes dam matter.
Sommer said at the contested meeting a 22-page report was handed out that states that an open-door approach would be pursued in which the communities would be consulted to avoid resettlement.
She said the Himba leaders on 21 March held a meeting at which the document was considered, adding: “… and they are angry. They say there is no door open, they say no. Therefore they feel that they are not heard.”

Himba and Zemba Protest March 25, 2013 (Photo © Earth Peoples)

Himba and Zemba Protest March 25, 2013 (Photo © Earth Peoples)

“The report falsely states that we Himba have the door open for further negotiations and that forced resettlements could be therefore avoided,” said one of the Himba chiefs, Mutambo Omuhonga, who was part of the delegation to Windhoek.
He continued: “We are outraged. We said over and over ‘no’, and we mean it. There is no negotiation from our side, and there is no consultation, because they do not hear us when we say no. That is why we protest again to show our collective objection to the planned dam construction once again. We’d rather die and throw ourselves in the river before we allow the destruction and invasion of our land. We explained all that in our declaration.”
The groups issued a declaration to the United Nations last year in which they rejected the dam project.
Yesterday’s march was also to call for drought relief from the government. The communities want the government to subsidise fodder for their livestock, and to look into improving the distribution of drought relief food.
The Himba and Zemba communities are especially hard hit by the current drought because of their remoteness and the inaccessible terrain in which they live.
The communities fear that their cattle might start dying because of the extremely dry and hot weather conditions during this rainy season. With little or no rain this year yet, the communities have also not been able to plant gardens, so they do not have any maize to sustain them.
Sommer said the Himba delegation that was in Windhoek also met with solar-energy experts and concluded from this that the planned Baynes dam “does not make sense, not for the Himba and not for Namibia “.
The Himba headmen are now reportedly going to select 10 “bright men and women” willing to learn about solar power in the capital city. The Himba have also planned a trip to Tsumkwe where they can see a large off-grid power system.

Namibia Indigenous Peoples: Himba and Zemba LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT HIFIKEPUNYE POHAMBA

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

His Excellency the President
Office of the President (OoP)
No. 1 Engelberg Street Auasblick,
Windhoek
P/Bag: 13339, Windhoek

c.c. Office of the Prime Minister (OPM)
c.c. Minister of Presidential Affairs
c.c. Advisors to H.E. the President
c.c. Political Advisor to the President
c.c. Office of the Auditor-General (OAG)
c.c. Office of the Ombudsman Head Office
c.c. Office of the Ombudsman Oshakati
c.c. Prime Minister Mr. Hage Geingob
c.c. Chairman of the National Council Mr. Asser Kuveri Kapere
c.c. Chairman of the National Assembly Mr. Theo-Ben Gurirab
c.c. Judge-President of the High Court
c.c. Ministry of Justice and Attorney General (MoJ)
c.c. Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF)
c.c. Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET
c.c. Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR)
c.c. Ministry of Health and Social Services (MHSS)
c.c. Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration
c.c. Ministry of Youth, National Services, Sport and Culture (MYNSSC)
c.c. Ministry of Education (MoE)

Opuwo, March 25, 2013

His Exellency, Mr. President Hifikepunye Pohamba,

We, the Himba and Zemba people gathered here in Opuwo are preparing for our third manifestation in Opuwo this year, because we are unhappy.

We decided to write you a letter and to reach out to you in the hope that you will hear the sorrows, fears and concerns of Himba and Zemba, and that you care for us, like a father cares for his children. We are children to the soil from Namibia. Like all Namibians, we deeply love our land, especially our Himba territory Kaoko, as well as our Zemba territory in Ruacana, to which we belong for centuries.

We also wanted to thank you, we acknowledge and appreciate that you allowed the UN Special Rapportuer on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Mr. James Anaya, to enter Namibia and to visit us. We are aware that you could have said no. It is this kind of openness that Namibia showed, that we envision for our future in our country, so that we can enter in a new era of mutual respect and understanding and dialogue. But that also means for us, in the case that we do not want a project or program to be implemented on our traditional land, that we want our collectively made decision to be heard, and to be respected.

We are and remain in distress, because we feel that we are often overlooked as well as marginalized by your Ministries and Offices. Our collective feeling of grievance is growing so much that we wish that you and your Prime Minister will invite us, the Traditional Leaders of our people, to speak with you in person.

We are Namibians, but we are also born as indigenous peoples, Himba and Zemba. We are what we are by tradition, culture and heart, and want to remain that way. Laws and policies in Namibia are more often than not against us, and interfere or even contradict with our culture, customs, traditions, our needs as well as with our aspirations. We believe that does not need to be this way. We would like to discuss our issues and suggestions with you directly.

You received our three Declarations in 2012 (Two Himba Declarations, one Zemba Declaration), in which we tried to explain in detail our unresolved and for us very serious problems as well as our needs and hopes. Unfortunately we do not feel that they have been taken into serious consideration. For your convenience we include our two Himba Declarations with this letter, as well as our Zemba Declaration. Please do not take offense, we send you our Declarations in good faith that you will take steps to address our legitimate needs a well as that they will encourage you to communicate with us directly.

One of our main concerns of the many that we Himba people do have is the dam. We do not want the dam, we never agreed to it in the past, and we won’t agree to it in the future. It would be constructed on our traditional land. We Himba live on both sides of the Kunene River. Our people in Angola do not want the dam either. Recently, we got hold of a report in Windhoek that was commissioned by one of your Ministries, but the report didn’t said the truth, but claimed that the “door would be open for further negotiations “ with us regarding the dam. We need to let you now, that the door is not open. We refuse to accept the dam.
Kindly do not try to force the dam upon us, on our beloved land and the Water. Allow it to live. Allow us to live as well. We recently learned that there are other solutions for energy, such as solar. The sun is always shining in Namibia, the sun can be used in its abundance to make energy, but the Water and the River are too precious to interfere with it.

The sun is burning the vegetation, and there is no rain in sight, the drought will make us suffer; soon our animals are going to die. The insufficient rain hindered us to plant our gardens, we have no maize. Please ensure that drought relief will reach also us Ovahimba, Ovatwa, Ovatjimba and Ovazemba living in the remotest area of your country. Please ensure that nothing get’s lost during the long way until actual relief is reaching us.

We, the Signees gathered here in Opuwo, on behalf of our communities and members that stayed behind with our animals, children and Elders urge you to grant our chosen representatives a meeting with you as soon as possible,

Respectfully yours:

Namibia: Indigenous Himba and Zemba – LETTER TO THE OMBUDSMAN JOHN ROBERT WALTERS (March 25, 2013)

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

Office of the Ombudsman Head Office
Cnr of Feld and Lossen Streets
Private Bag 13211, Windhoek
Tel 061-220550 (Ombudsman)
Fax 061-226838 (Director and Investigations)

c.c. Office of the Ombudsman Oshakati
Magistrate’s Office, Main Road,
P O Box 2658
Tel 065-224638
Fax 065-224605

c.c. OHCHR
c.c. Special Rapportuer James Anaya
c.c. Earth Peoples
c.c. Namrights

OPUWO, March 25, 2013

Dear Ombudsman Mr. John Robert Walters

We, the Ovahimba, Ovatwa, Ovatjimba and Ovazemba, also known as Himba and Zemba, are gathered here in Opuwo for our third manifestation in Opuwo this year, because we are unhappy, and decided to write you a letter.

We have received information that your good Office is in communication with third concerned parties about our 2012 human rights violations Declarations, two from us Himba, one from us Zemba. But we haven’t gotten the impression that your regional office as well as your headquarters office has been available or accessible for us.

What we are envisioning from you is active and effective help to tackle our grievances and serious problems that we feel that we face in Namibia.

Some of them are dealing with legislation, others with insufficient implementation of the law, while in some cases the very policies and laws are in contradiction to our differentiated needs as well as rights that we do have as indigenous peoples.

For your convenience we include hardcopies of our two 2012 Human Rights violation complaint Declarations in this letter, as you know, both have been submitted to the United Nations and to the African Union.

We as semi-nomadic people have difficulties to travel with our communities to far distances due to money restrains and because of our livestock. Therefore we would like to ask you to come to us, and to hold several meetings in our regions and communities.

We hope to hear from you soon, best through the contact of our Councilor’s for each constituency, who would inform us and would coordinate with each other and arrange the meetings with you and us.

If that is not possible, please come back to us with other suggestions so that we will talk to each other in person.

We, the Signees gathered here in Opuwo, on behalf of our community members that stayed behind with our animals are looking forward to receive your response,

Respectfully yours