Indigenous peoples, Namibia: 150 KUNENE CHIEFS MEET UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR

By TJIKUNDA KULUNGA*

TRADITIONAL leaders in the Kunene Region handed over declarations to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People, James Anaya, on Wednesday.
In the declarations, the close to 150 chiefs and other traditional leaders demanded that the Government of Namibia recognizes those still-unrecognized chiefs.

The traditional leaders also appealed to the UN to assist them in stopping the awarding of the planned 20 hectares of land to individuals by the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement in communal areas that belong to traditional communities.

Among the attendees was the chief of the OvaZemba Community, Jonas Tjikulya, who said his tribesmen, women and children are subjected by force under the leadership of other tribes, specifically the Aakolonghadi Traditional Authority.

Rev. Daniel Muharukua and Tjikunda Kulunga on the way to Himba chief human rights meeting (Photo © Rebecca Sommer)

Rev. Daniel Muharukua and Tjikunda Kulunga on the way to Himba chief human rights Declaration meeting 2012 (Photo © Rebecca Sommer)

“My people are denied recognition of their own traditional authority, making them landless and without any jurisdiction or power over their villages. People who are ruling our land and resources are not from our villages, and they do not regard us in their decisions that most of the time affects us,” he charged.

Tjikulya said by way of example that a traditional chief of another area would give a letter to settle a person in his village without any consultation, and when they ask, the reply is that the ‘Government-recognized traditional chief’ had given such permission.

He said the OvaZemba communities in Namibia are living under oppression.

Furthermore, the names of the villages and towns in the territory of the Ovazemba communities are being changed, and they are denied resources like water and electricity, which are even being sourced from their areas.

“Electricity is coming from the Ruacana River in Namibia, but residents of Ruacana and the villages of the OvaZemba and OvaHimba communities which are about 10 kilometers from the hydro-electricity power station are not having electricity to date,” he noted.

He added that water is also sourced from the same Kunene River. Water canals have been laid from there to as far as Outapi and beyond, but his people there do not have access to potable water.

“We are still using water from the wells dug in the traditional way, and getting water from the flowing river,” added Tjikulya.

Other chiefs weighed in about the illegal fencing of communal areas and mining activities in traditional areas of their jurisdiction, where traditional leaders are not informed about these activities.

The traditional leaders also spoke of their children in traditional attire who are not well catered for in the education system when it comes to higher education.

The Ovazemba community further stated that their children are forced to be taught in Oshiwambo in their area at primary school level or sometimes in Otjiherero, which is also a disadvantage to the development of the OvaZemba language.

At the same meeting, the traditional leaders affirmed their resistance to the construction of the Orokawe hydro-electricity dam that is being pursued by the Angolan and Namibian government.

Anaya said he would prepare a report and recommendations that he would give to the Namibian government as well as the United Nations soon.

He added that he hoped that there would be a change in some of the problems faced by the community after he would have recommended what needed to be improved by the Namibian government to make the lives of the people better.

The Namibian reported earlier that he would be holding a media briefing on September 28 in Windhoek to share what he had discovered during his 10-day visit to different indigenous communities in the country.

*Courtesy: The Namibian online, 28.09.2012

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EARTH PEOPLES note: read James Anaya’s statement

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