By Rebecca Sommer
EARTH PEOPLES – NAMIBIA 23 March, 2013: Growing numbers of semi-nomadic Himba and Zemba people are gathering in Opuwo town in the heart of Himba territory for their third Protest in 2013. The protest will start Monday morning.
Indigenous Himba protest against dam and human rights violations, 2013 (Photo © Earth Peoples)
The young and old are arriving by foot, in overloaded trucks and on donkey’s from all four directions of Kaokoland (Kunene region), despite prevailing drought conditions due to Climate Change, and their growingly frantic search for grazing and water for their livestock.
Each Himba and Zemba community has sent members which they could spare, while those staying behind will tend to the needs of their goats, sheep and cattle that are increasingly weakened by the drought, upon which the Himba and Zemba depend for their very survival.
The drought has caused already enormous damage for the self-sufficient semi-nomads, with nearly no rain they could not make gardens, thus they have no harvest of maize and other nutritional crops.
The indigenous peoples in the Kunene Region are already calling on government to subsidize fodder for their livestock, and to look into improving the distribution of drought relief food. The community made formal requests to the chairperson of the Kunene Regional Council’s Management Committee, Dudu Murorua, at Opuwo.
Indigenous Zemba protest 2013 in Namibia (Photo © Earth Peoples)
But as much as they fear for their livestock and to face soon hunger and thirst, they are also hungry and thirsty for something else: Their human rights. They want to see changes, and they want to be heard by the majority tribe that leads the Government of Namibia. They want to have the right and means to maintain their culture, way of life, language, religion, traditional governance structure and so much more.
The protest is about their continuous human rights grievances, which made headlines in Namibia and the world after being published for the first time in form of two Declarations signed by all the traditional Himba chiefs at the beginning of last year.
On behalf of the Himba and Zemba, Earth Peoples submitted both Declarations to the United Nations system. Our dear colleagues from Namrights submitted the Declarations to the African Union.
Read: DECLARATION OF THE DIRECTLY AFFECTED OVAHIMBA, OVATWA, OVATJIMBA AND OVAZEMBA AGAINST THE OROKAWE DAM IN THE BAYNES MOUNTAINS (Neckartal Dam project)
Read: DECLARATION OF THE TRADITIONAL HIMBA LEADERS OF KAOKOLAND IN NAMIBIA
Months later, the United Nations Special Rapporteur visited the Himba and Zemba and met them in Opuwo, were Himba read their Declaration and handed him a copy in person.
The UN Special Rapportuer Anaya confirmed in his Statement the human rights violations that the Himba people are facing, which can be read here.
The Himba will draft and sign two additional letters. One will be addressed to the President of Namibia, and the other handed to the Governor of Opuwo on Monday. Both Declarations will be submitted once again to both of them.
“They got our Declarations, the responsible including the President are aware about our situation. But nothing has been done, we continue to be ignored” said community leader D. Muharukua from Opuwo.
Additionally, the Himba are furious about a 22-page report that was handed to three of their representatives that had traveled to Windhoek to seek information and clarification on the proposed hydroelectric dam (Neckartal Dam project) in the Baynes Mountains.
Namibia and Angola are planning to finance and build the Orokawe dam jointly.
Himba women at human rights protest in Opuwo, Namibia, 2013 (Photo © Earth Peoples)
“The report falsely states that we Himba have the door open for further negotiations, and that forced resettlement could be therefore avoided” said Mutambo, a leader from the Himba community Omuhonga who was at the meeting in Windhoek. “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’s why we protest Monday again, to show our collective objection to the planned Neckartal Dam construction once again. We rather die and throw us into the River, before we allow the destruction and invasion of our land. We explained all that in our Declaration ” He added. (http://earthpeoples.org/blog/?p=1070)
The Himba will also discuss this weekend the idea to propose Solar systems as an alternative to the dam. They plan a trip to Tsumkwe so that they can see a large off-grid system. The Himba Elders and chiefs will also choose about 10 bright young men and women that speak english and can read and write, to learn more about Solar systems these coming weeks.
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+++++++++++++++++ PRO AND CONTRA :
Orokawe dam in the Baynes Mountains:
• Will cost a minimum of 22bn N$ if not more
• Will need a complete overhauled stronger power line from the dam site to Omburo
• Will have a surface of 5900ha which evaporates 590000 tones of water per day which is in the region of 20% from the low-season run-off
• Will take minimum 10 years to come online
• Will need a lengthy power contract to be signed with Angola
• Will need to share the power 50/50 with Angola
• Will only be a peaking station because not enough water to run the 600MW turbines 24/7 (Only 1.7 TWh energy for the year vs. 5.0 TWh (if water would be enough)
• Will again not be Namibia’s own power because of the sharing
• Will again mean an investment that puts all eggs in one basket relying on the Kunene
• Will cause forced resettlement
• Will destroy special safety areas for indigenous peoples livestock at drought
• Will destroy sacred sites of indigenous peoples
• Will destroy special medicine plant areas of the Himba and Ovazemba
• Will damage the River
• Would make no sense in a country were Water is so rare
• Will damage fish stock
• Will cause enormous environmental impact
• Will cause large destruction of nature by building road construction grids
• Will violate human rights, UNDRIP, FPIC, ILO Nr 169
• Will harm tourism long-term
• Take up only 900 ha for the same output (1.7 TWh per year)
• Cost 15 bn without storage for the same output (without storage)
• Storage for Solar becomes more and more available with new technologies and would cost together with solar roughly then the same as Baines
• Solar could be built where the need for power is and not in the most remote corner of the country with all the losses involved
• Solar could start right now and would be built as appropriate installments; no need to pre-finance in one go!!
• Solar would really be NAM’s own indigenous energy solution
• Solar investments will attract all the money in the world, hydro investments for Kaoko will not.
• Solar would means appropriate power for the Himba’s own use for energy and water pumping etc.
• Solar will give the people modern energy AND much more time to adapt!
• Would make Namibia stand out for it’s green, environmental and human rights friendly energy approach
• Would make sense in such a hot, sunny country
• Would get more funds from international sources to implement green energy as well as for Climate Change adaptation and mitigation measures
• Would be longer lasting, as Climate Reports estimate the increasing reduction of waters in Kunene
• Solar would be supported by the worlds’ tourists, the public is aware about the damages of dams
• Could be negotiated with the Himba people, and places for grids could be agreed upon
• Solar would be good for the Climate, Namibia’s Nature, Cunene River, and good for Namibia’s people
What the hydro people at NamPower and the Governments have not yet fully acknowledged: Solar Panels only cost 25% of what they were in 1995 during the Epupa Dam Debate