Posts Tagged ‘James Anaya’

Cameroon Pastoralists Fight for their Way of Life

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013
Earth Peoples partner Musa Usman Ndamba (Photo ©

Earth Peoples partner Musa Usman Ndamba (Photo ©

Earth Peoples partner Musa Usman Ndamba is the Vice-President of the Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association (MBOSCUDA), Ndamba advocates for the rights of Mbororo pastoralists in Cameroon. For decades, this has placed him in opposition to one of Cameroon’s wealthiest men, Baba Ahmadou Danpullo.

After years of struggles against governments and private parties, the Mbororo-Fulani are gaining international attention. But is this too little too late?

Think Africa Press article by KAITLIN CORDES

Pulaaku, the code of behaviour governing Mbororo-Fulani pastoralists, may be proving useful for Musa Usman Ndamba: one of its core tenants, munyal, stresses fortitude in adversity. As the Vice-President of the Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association (MBOSCUDA), Ndamba advocates for the rights of Mbororo pastoralists in Cameroon. For decades, this has placed him in opposition to one of Cameroon’s wealthiest men, Baba Ahmadou Danpullo.

A businessman with political connections, Danpullo has been at odds with the Mbororo pastoralist community since the mid-1980s, when he established a ranch in northwest Cameroon. The massive farm, which journalist Guibaï Gatama described to Jeune Afrique as a city where a thousand cattle graze and Danpullo reigns supreme, is allegedly encroaching on communal grazing land relied on by Mbororo pastoralists. Mbororo activists have alleged a litany of other complaints as well.

The allegations against Danpullo have been noted at home and abroad. In 2003, the government created a special inter-ministerial commission to investigate the conflicts between the landholder and the Mbororo of the Northwest Province, now a region. After months of work, the commissioners, who could not agree on the scope of their mandate, released two reports.

Although, as one report explained, not all Mbororo seemed in conflict with Danpullo – some have chosen to live on his ranch – many remain angry. Both reports identified land disputes as the main cause of conflict between the Mbororo community and Danpullo, including the encroachment of Danpullo’s ranch onto adjacent grazing land.

The Commission recommended the restoration of the original ranch boundaries and compensation for displaced victims. Although these findings and recommendations have been flagged in letters to the government by a range of actors, including the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Mbororo activists state that the recommendations have not been implemented, nor their situation improved. Rita Izsák, United Nations Independent Expert on minority issues, visited Cameroon between September 2 and 11 to examine the human rights situation of minority communities.

A trialling experience
Danpullo has filed legal complaints against Ndamba and MBOSCUDA, alleging defamation. Ndamba is currently facing his third legal proceeding in seventeen years. The first, in 1996, was thrown out for “lack of diligent prosecution” after hearings were adjourned seven times. The second, in 2003, was similarly dismissed after five adjournments; neither Danpullo nor his witnesses had appeared. As Ndamba’s lawyer wrote at the time, “Musa therefore went through all of these torments, arrest, detention and eventual charge before the court for nothing, as he finally never went through any trial as such.”

Thus far, in this third procedure, the same pattern has held. Ndamba has appeared at the Court of First Instance in Bamenda three times since May, facing four separate charges related to defamation. He has pleaded not guilty. At the most recent hearing, on Monday, August 19, Danpullo failed to appear once more and Judge Achu Francis of the Bamenda Court of First Instance delivered a ruling of a Bench Warrant for Baba Ahmadou Danpullo and his two witnesses to appear in the next hearing of the case, adjourned, yet again, until October 4. Just one week later, the judge changed his mind and the warrant was retracted.

Third time around, Ndamba’s case has attracted support from the international community [1]. Most recently, the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales has sent a letter to the Prime Minister of Cameroon, noting among other things that criminal liability for defamation, such as Ndamba is facing, is contrary to international legal standards.

The letter also raised concerns about a separate pending trial by military tribunal against five members of MBOSCUDA for possession of firearms; military jurisdiction over civilians is condemned under international human rights law. What impact this international attention will have over the trial procedures is unclear.

The ruling on the case against the MBOSCUDA members was once again adjourned on September 16. Nov, a new date has been set.

A cause for complaint
On September 13, the Attorney General of the North-West Region, Bechem Eyong Eneke issued a summons to human rights defenders and MBOSCUDA leaders, including Ndamba, to appear before him on September 19, 2013, to testify on a complaint they submitted to the Minister of Justice in May this year on judicial harassment by Danpullo. The complaint had been referred to the Attorney General for investigation.

This summons may suggest that the Cameroonian judiciary is finally taking notice of Ndamba and the MBOSCUDA leaders’ case. However, lawyers for the human rights defenders are concerned because the Attorney General is thought to be a friend of Danpullo, having reportedly been seen visiting his ranch.

Human rights and international spotlight
International attention has not yet led to any improvement in conditions. According to Sarli Sardou Nana, a human rights defender now based in the UK, the Mbororo of Cameroon face constant conflicts with crop farmers, and also worry about land grabs by political elites and agribusiness. MBOSCUDA asserts on its website that land tenure insecurity dissuades the Mbororo from investing in their environment.

In a joint report submitted earlier this year to the UN Human Rights Council during its Universal Periodic Review of Cameroon, MBOSCUDA and other organisations were more dismal, noting that the Mbororo of Cameroon are marginalised and “face serious threats to their existence as a people”. Nana argues that the Mbororo confront continuing violations of their constitutional and international human rights, and laments the government’s failure to implement useful judicial and administrative decisions.

International human rights experts share these concerns about ongoing violations of Mbororo rights in Cameroon. The current UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, wrote a letter last year to the government of Cameroon, listing a range of alleged violations that had been brought to his attention.

Anaya noted that the government had not done enough to prevent these violations, and explained that another UN expert had written a letter five years earlier on the same subject. Anaya reminded the government that it had voted in favour of the United Nations General Assembly Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People in 2007, a non-binding but ground-breaking acknowledgement of both the special rights of indigenous peoples and the distinct corresponding duties of governments.

Last year, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, visited Cameroon, where he concluded in his preliminary mission report that the Mbororo are regularly victims of the narrowing of spaces on which they depend for their livelihood. De Schutter said that this was a violation of their rights as indigenous people as well as their right to food, an internationally-recognised human right.

Whilst at least some international attention has been focused on the Mbororo, even less has been directed at other groups in Cameroon, like the isolated mountain-dwelling Kirdi. As the US State Department wrote in its most recent annual human rights report, traditional Fulani rulers in some regions have great power over their “subjects”, including Kirdi. Allegations have even been made of “isolated cases of hereditary servitude [and] largely Fulani enslavement of Kirdi.”

Pressures on land and the ensuing conflicts between semi-nomadic or nomadic herders and farmers are not unique to the Mbororo of Cameroon. In nearby countries, the Mbororo and other pastoralists [2] find themselves in similarly tense situations, or worse. In the Central African Republic, along the Cameroon border, Mbororo-Fulani children have been prime targets for abduction, taken when isolated while tending cattle, often from families with valuable assets that could be sold to pay ransoms. Fortunately, this practice, which continued into 2011, seems to have stopped– or at least paused – by 2012.

Of course conflicts are rarely straightforward and, in land disputes, pastoralists are not always blameless. In Nigeria, conflicts between farmers and Fulani herders often turn deadly, fed by and fuelling ethnic and religious violence. Near the city of Jos, hundreds have been killed and thousands displaced by conflicts arising from a tangled web of factors: land, religion, access to the state, and ethnic differences. Farmer-pastoralist conflict and land disputes have also been pinpointed as factors behind the 2010 Jos ‘riots’, in which “attacks by Muslim Fulani herders … left an estimated 700 persons dead”.

Threatened land, threatened livelihoods
Throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, pastoralists struggle to maintain their traditional livelihoods in the face of growing pressures on land. A report last year by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) asserted that, in Kenya, land disputes cause most of the conflicts leading to internal displacement of pastoralist communities. Although the impact of climate change on pastoralists’ displacement has not been fully studied, ISS notes that, “For pastoralists today, recurrent droughts exacerbated by the recent climate variability have forced communities to move away from traditional grazing lands in search of ever-shrinking grazing and water resources.” Even worse, displaced pastoralists are often neglected by wider efforts to address displacement; it is easier to ignore the displacement of traditionally itinerant groups.

Intensifying interest in African land may exacerbate pastoralists’ problems. Governments often view uncultivated common land as unused or underutilised and thus ripe for large-scale commercial farming projects. Yet according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, little extensive grassland exists in African regions with enough rainfall for subsistence farming.

Nevertheless, many large-scale land acquisitions are likely to occur on Africa’s remaining common lands, including rangelands relied on by pastoralists. As research from the International Land Coalition has pointed out, while morally problematic and contrary to international human rights frameworks, “the lease of large areas of community lands to foreign and local investors without the consent of the customary owners is perfectly legal under many national land laws”.

Increased farming and the subsequent narrowing of uncultivated lands means that pastoralists lose access to their traditional routes and necessary water supplies. If the trend of establishing expansive plantations continues, nomadic pastoralism will find it more and more difficult to survive the coming decades.

 Mbororo-Fulani pastoralists (Photo ©

Mbororo-Fulani pastoralists (Photo ©

Land pressures on pastoralists are not a new phenomenon. In the 1970s, the Kenyan government evicted the nomadic Endorois people from land that they had traditionally used near Lake Bogoria. The government believed that the lake, surrounded by wildlife, would be more valuable as a national wildlife reserve and tourist attraction. Banished from their ancestral territory and confined to unsuitable land, the Endorois struggled to maintain their livelihoods as pastoralists.

After unsuccessful attempts to petition the government and bring their claims in domestic courts, the Endorois turned to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which monitors implementation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Kenya had ratified the Charter in 1992. In 2010, nearly 40 years after they were forced from their traditional lands, the Commission issued a ruling finding that, under the Charter, the Kenyan government had violated multiple rights of the Endorois by evicting them – even though the Endorois had no formal title to the land. The decision was groundbreaking. Undoubtedly, it will pave the way for interesting legal fights in the future.

The ruling has also provided a glimmer of hope for African pastoralists confronting increased pressures on their traditional way of life. Though the Commission is limited in its ability to enforce remedies, it has clearly signalled the importance of indigenous peoples’ rights, including indigenous pastoralists. Whether this message will survive in the context of rising commercial interest in land is yet to be seen. For Musa Usman Ndamba and his fellow Mbororo, the answer is critical.

[1] Full disclosure: The author introduced Ndamba to two organisations that have supported him through, respectively, an urgent appeal and a letter to the Court.

[2] Mbororo and Mbororo’en are used in Cameroon to signify “cattle Fulbe” or “cattle Fulani,” and are comprised of three migratory groups: Jafun’en, Aku’en, and Wodaabe. Though Mbororo arose as a derogatory term, it has been re-appropriated; as human rights advocate Nana explained to Think Africa Press, “we reclaimed it and made it positive.” In describing pastoralist groups in Niger, however, some academics have used Mbororo and Wodaabe interchangeably. Kristín Loftsdóttir’s “Bounded and Multiple Identities: Ethnic Identifications of WoDaaBe and FulBe” provides both an epic illustration of shifting ethnic identifications and classifications, as well as a long list of the various terms used in reference to Wodaabe and Fulbe.

UN Special Rapporteur visits Namibia – Meeting with Himba, Zemba, Twa and other Indigenous Peoples

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

By Rebecca Sommer

I went from December to March 2012 to Namibia, to investigate and to document in written and in video format the human rights violations conducted by the government of Namibia against it’s indigenous peoples.

Himba Women sitting behind the Himba men, at the human rights meeting about the proposed Baynes Site dam, in Orokawe (Photo © Rebecca Sommer)

Himba Women sitting behind the Himba men, at the human rights meeting about the proposed Baynes Site dam, in Orokawe (Photo © Rebecca Sommer)

Even so I planned an entire country visit, I remained in Kaokoland, the territory of the semi-nomadic Himba (and Zemba), where I stayed in numerous villages, and held countless regional human rights meetings, that resulted in  Himba and Zemba invitation letters to the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples,  James Anaya, and three Human Rights complaint Declarations of the Himba and Zemba. (links to the Declarations below)

The invitation letter to James Anaya, and the three Declarations where submitted to the UN Human Rights mechanisms by Earth Peoples.

Therefore I am pleased that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya,  is now visiting Namibia from 20 to 28 September 2012, to examine the situation of indigenous peoples in that country. This is the first mission to Namibia by an independent expert designated by the UN Human Rights Council to report on the rights of the indigenous peoples.

“I will examine the situation of indigenous peoples in Namibia in, among others, the areas of lands and resources, development, and social and economic rights, in light of relevant international standards including those in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was adopted by the General Assembly in 2007 with an affirmative vote by Namibia,” he said.

The Special Rapporteur will carry out meetings with representatives of the Government of Namibia and with indigenous peoples and non-governmental organizations.

Click on the LINKS below:




Himba leader’s INVITATION LETTER to the Special Rapporteur on the rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples

PHOTOS of Himba and Zemba human rights meetings

VIDEOS of Himba indigenous peoples

Himba woman during Earth Peoples human rights training (Photo©Rebecca Sommer)

Himba woman during Earth Peoples human rights training (Photo©Rebecca Sommer)

EARTH PEOPLES note: read James Anaya’s statement


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.


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


To download the original signed Declaration click here:


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