Posts Tagged ‘OHCHR’

ENGLISH VERSION of Human Rights Complaint Document submitted to the United Nations OHCHR by the National Indigenous Peoples Organization from Brazil (APIB)

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

(Document submitted by Uilton Tuxá (APIB) to the OHCHR in Geneva, 13 November 2012)

Translated into English by EARTH PEOPLES. Click here to read the original in Portuguese

Geneva, 13 November 2012.

Regarding: Situation of Indigenous Peoples Rights in Brazil

Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen

Our National Indigenous Umbrella organization of Brazil (APIB) “Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil” (APIB) is comprised of the main regional indigenous organizations in the country:

Articulation of Indigenous people in the Northeast and Minas Gerais and Espirito Santo – APOINME,

Coordination of the Brazilian Amazon – COIAB,

Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of the South – ARPINSUL,

Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of the Southeast – ARPINSUDESTE,

Articulation of Indigenous Peoples and the Pantanal region – ARPIPAN,

the Great Assembly Guarani – ATY Guasu.

We are highly concerned about the worsening situation in our country and the increasing violations on our fundamental collective human rights as a peoples.

The main objective of this document is to request the UN system to intervene with the Brazilian State to take measures to ensure respect for indigenous peoples rights in accordance with international human rights instruments, among which we highlight the ILO Convention 169 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which establish the right of indigenous peoples to Free, Prior and Informed Consent, yet frequently violated by Brazil despite the recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, or the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR / OAS).

Brazil is seen in the world as one of the fastest economically growing countries especially in the last decade, and therefore considered to have evolved from the status of a third world country to the status of an emerging country, but even with the investment in programs such as the Bolsa Familia that aims to end hunger of the population living in extreme poverty, there are still many poor, and indigenous peoples in Brazil are within this context of poverty.

We wish to present in this paper an overview about the situation of indigenous peoples in Brazil:

SOCIAL RIGHTS

Regarding the rights of indigenous peoples that are constitutionally guaranteed is far from being achieved, due to the absence of the passing of a law that would regulate the Article 231 of the Constitution. The lack of such regulation of the law contradicts the discourses of the leaders of the current government such as President Dilma Rousseff and Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

According to Census 2010, conducted by the Institute Brazilian Geography and Statistics (IBGE), the total indigenous population in Brazil is 817,963. Of these, at least 326,375 Indigenous individuals are living in extreme poverty (39.9%), which are almost every fourth of each tenth. Unlike other segments of the Brazilian society where the percentages are way lower than those of the indigenous peoples, for the white population the percentage reaches 4.7%, and for the population of African decent 10.0%, it is noteworthy that the indigenous population in Brazil represents only 0.04% of the total population in the country.

LAND AND INDIGENOUS TERRITORIES

The Brazilian government is claiming that 95% of  Indigenous Territories are already demarcated in Brazil, but does not explain that this percentage is almost exclusively related to land in the Amazon region, and that some territories that were demarcated as well as others who were regularized relied on the encouragement of significant financial support through international cooperation and that little investment of financial resources was coming from the Government of Brazil.

Most of the indigenous population that suffers and lives in a situation of extreme poverty is located in the North (Amazon) and Midwest, and many cases occur on land that has been demarcated, showing that it is not enough to demarcate indigenous lands without offering decent work conditions and the sustainable use of land. Indigenous peoples and communities like any other citizen need the conditions in order to sustain themselves and to protect their territories. If there is visible poverty in the regions with land that is already demarcated, imagine then the other regions,  such as the south and northeast of the country, where many indigenous lands are not even demarcated and continue to be invaded by farmers.

Most of the indigenous peoples of Brazil are subject to vulnerabilities, because they are under pressure over their lands, territories and natural resources, because of the construction of large economic development projects of the government, such as roads, small and large hydroelectric dams, transposition of watercourses – as in the case of the São Francisco River, electricity transmission networks, the intrusion of mining and logging operations, agricultural expansion, monoculture plantations and general conflicts with settlers and landowners.

As an example, we wish to cite some cases of the indigenous peoples, such as the Guarani Kaiowá people, located in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, the Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe, Pataxó and Tupinambá people in the State of Bahia, and the Xavante people in the state of Mato Grosso. In the first case the Guarani Kaiowá are subjected to discrimination and ethnocide. They live in extremely small areas, and large-scale farms invade and occupy the land with monoculture plantations such as soy, sugarcane and eucalyptus,  and their gunmen. In indigenous territory Dourados, the homicide rate is very high due to the land conflict,  and there are other cases where indigenous peoples such as the Pataxó Hãhãhãe in the state of Bahia wait for more than 20 years that the Federal Supreme Court may resolve the situation with their territory. Only this year, on May 2nd, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Pataxó Hãhãhãe that the property titles that the regional government of Bahia had awarded to the farmers of the region are rejected and nullified, however the federal government that is responsible for indigenous peoples land demarcation in Brazil has done nothing to ensure the withdrawal/removal of several Farmers that illegally occupy the indigenous Pataxó Hãhãhãe territory.

The case of the Xavante people in the state of Mato Grosso is another revealing case of hegemony, in which the constitutional rights of indigenous peoples are blatantly violated, even so under the laws of the country the implementation of constitutional rights are the responsibility of the federal government. In 1998 the Indigenous territory Maraiwatséde was ratified, therefore the Xavante people got entitlement to permanent possession and exclusive use of their ratified territory, however, the federal government, through the governmental bureau of indigenous peoples affairs, the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), has not removed the farmers to this date, to the dismay of the Xavante people. But worse, the Legislative Assembly of the State of Mato Grosso approved a bill proposing that Xavante be transferred to a state park, so that the non-indigenous large-scale farms and plantations can remain on the Indigenous territory. Moreover, like the Kaiowá in southern regional states of the country, there are about 50 indigenous groups living in camps and awaiting the demarcation of their traditional territory while others are awaiting the removal of non-indigenous intruders.

As you can see the fate of the indigenous peoples of Brazil is threatened, because we know that without our land and territories guaranteed, and without conditions of protection and sustainability, the survival of indigenous peoples become unviable.

MEGAPROJECTS

Regarding Brazilian governmental infrastructure development projects, at least 434 would affect indigenous territories. We highlight two megaprojects: the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam in the Amazon region and the transposition / diversion of the waters of the Rio São Francisco, in the northeast of the country. In both cases, the Brazilian government has not respected the right of indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC).

For over 20 years the Belo Monte hydroelectric project was met with resistance and was not executed due to the powerful protest struggle of the indigenous peoples that would have been affected by the dam. This project is considered as a major environmental tragedy, it will flood an area of ​​500 square kilometers, and will bring huge social problems to the people that are impacted by the dam. The diversion of the waters of the Xingu River in the state Para will leave (parts with nearly) no water, no fish and no means of river transportation for the indigenous and traditional communities. These communities will be impacted with their traditional forms of production and their culture, not to mention the conflicts and social problems that will be caused by the immigration of ~20 000 workers from various regions of the country in search for work and better living conditions.

The transposition/diversion of the São Francisco River in the states of Pernambuco, Paraíba, Ceará and Rio Grande do Norte, which supposedly would bring water to the poor people of these states is actually planned as a project that aims to promote and meet the demands of agribusiness, political and economical interests and other interests of the various sectors of the regions.

The São Francisco River passes from its birthplace to its river’s mouth through traditional territories that are occupied for over 9000 years by the indigenous peoples of the northeast. It is over 2,800 km long, and home for 32 indigenous nations, occupying 38 traditional territories of the following people: Kaxagó, Kariri-Xocó, Tingui-Boto, Akona, Karapotó, Geripancó, Xoco, Katokin, Koiupanká, Karuazu, Kalankó, Pankararu, Fulni-ô, Xucuru-Kariri, Pankaiuká, Tuxá, Pipipã, Kambiwá, Kapinawá, Xukuru Pankará, Tupan, Truká Pankararé, Kantaruré, Atikum, Tumbalalá, Pankaru, Kiriri, Xacriabá, Kaxixó and Pataxó, with a population of approximately 70,000 Indigenous individuals.

For these peoples, the São Francisco River is of vital importance for their physical and cultural survival,  for their way of production/livelihood as well as for the continuity of their rituals and culture. However, the government ignores this wholesome context and especially the scream of repudiation of the indigenous but also non-indigenous people and decided to authorize the works for the project, violating the right to prior consultation.

The ILO Convention 169 is not respected and therefore does not apply in Brazil. A good example of the ILO Convention 169 being violated happened in 2011, when the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) asked the Brazilian government to suspend the permitting process and construction of the Belo Monte dam, while not properly consulting the indigenous peoples concerned.

So, slanderously, the Brazilian government reported on April 5 that it had fulfilled its institutional role to inform and consult the indigenous communities. When in fact there were social gatherings/meetings with basic/simple information provided and afterwards manipulated and characterized as consultation, even so these events were denounced as division with practices of cooptation or mischaracterization of indigenous leaders.

“Good faith” is clearly missing on the part of the Brazilian State, there is no political will to accept that indigenous people would be actually consulted about projects that will impact them, or that they are also involved in the decision making processes about the legislative or administrative measures which may affect them directly.

CRIMINALIZATION, HEALTH AND OTHER ASPECTS

The violation of indigenous rights in Brazil is worrying in all respects according to the latest annual report of the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI), released on 30 June 2011, 92 children died in 2010 due to lack of medical care. There were 60 killed and 152 death threats. Of the 60 Indians killed, 34 were in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, where the Guarani Kaiowá are located.

The health care attendance for indigenous peoples is very poor, the Special Indigenous Health Secretariat (Secretaria Especial de Saúde Indígena), created in 2010 can not function properly and has a insufficient structure that doesn’t promote adequate basic health care.

The National Office for Indigenous Affairs (Fundação Nacional do Índio – FUNAI) that got restructured, with the promise that this change would improve it’s work on the ground, mainly in the processes of land regularization of indigenous territory, but it has been impossible to see such changes on the ground. Actually, the governmental body for indigenous issues (FUNAI) goes through a purposeful scrapping by the government to hinder the process of land demarcations.

INDIGENOUS RIGHTS

In respect to indigenous peoples rights, we are waiting for over 20 years that the Brazilian National Congress approves a new Statute for Indigenous Peoples, which is being processed under No. PL 760/2011 that proposes to regulate the articles 231 and 232 of the Federal Constitution of Brazil concerning the rights of indigenous peoples.

We also await the approval of the bill No. PL 3571/2008 – the creation of the National Indigenous Policy (Conselho Nacional de Política Indigenista – CNPI), which is being processed in the Chamber of Deputies. These legislative steps do not advance in Congress due to lack of commitment of the current government that actually does not want to pass laws that guarantee our rights because of the interest to explore our traditional territory through projects of the Growth Acceleration Plan (Plano de Aceleração do Crescimento -PAC).

ANTI-INDIGENOUS LEGISLATION

PEC 215/2000. Contrarily to expectations for the protection of indigenous rights, the Chamber of Deputies’ Committee on Constitution and Justice (Comissão de Constituição e Justiça-CCJ) approved instead the admissibility of the Proposed Amendment to the Constitution (Proposta de Emenda à Constituição – PEC 215/2000) in March 21 2012. The Proposed Amendment to the Constitution (PEC 215) aims to transfer the authority to approve indigenous land demarcation to the National Congress, as well as the creation of conservation units and land-titles for traditional communities of African decent (Quilombolas), which should be the responsibility of the executive branch, through FUNAI, IBAMA and the Fundación Cultural Palmares (FCP), respectively. The approval of PEC 215 – as well as PEC 038/99 is pending in the Senate,  that would endanger indigenous territories that are already demarcated, and  prevent any possible future land demarcation. The risk is great since Congress is mostly composed of representatives from economic sectors that are powerful sponsors of the current development model.

Legislative Mining Project (Projeto de Mineração PL 1610/1996). The parliamentarian-mining lobby also aims to approve the bill (PL) 1610/96 that deals with mining on indigenous lands. The text of the rapporteur totally ignores safeguards to protect the territorial integrity, and the social, cultural and spiritual rights of indigenous peoples. Instead, the text is watering down bureaucratic processes in order to ease the permission process for mineral prospecting and mining concessions on indigenous lands, with abundant facilities and conditions that allow the easy reaping of profits and growth/expansion of the companies involved. That is, the scandalous text is only concerned to make indigenous peoples land and recourses available for financial speculative capital. PL 1610/1996 would create conditions for an uncontrolled large-scale mining rush in indigenous territories. It would increase the attacks / pressure on indigenous peoples that live in voluntary isolation or those that still have little contact, and would leave their fate to the principles of national security- taking in a ridiculous way the participation of the Federal Public Ministry (Ministério Público Federal- MPF) and it’s prosecutors away in their role to protect indigenous rights. It would bury the autonomy of indigenous peoples, would drown indigenous peoples decisions if they do not want mining on their land, as their objection would be deliberated by a Governmental Deliberative Committee that would tell the indigenous peoples what proposal would be best for their communities, which is tutelary, paternalistic and authoritarian. Anyway, PL 1610/1996 minimizes the right of consultation already established by the Brazilian Constitution and the ILO Convention 169.

The indigenous peoples and organizations are opposed to this proposed mining law PL 1610/1996 because of the damage that it would cause, and demand that the issue of mining is guided by the text in the Indigenous Peoples Statute, which was widely discussed and consented by the indigenous peoples with the Federal Government in 2008 and 2009.

ADMINISTRATIVE AND LEGAL MEASURES CONTRARY TO INDIGENOUS RIGHTS

During the past two years,  the Federal Government published a series of decrees and ordinances which aim to derail the demarcation of lands claimed by indigenous peoples, opening the indigenous territories and their natural resources to uncontrolled exploitation by domestic firms and transnational speculative capitalism. Between these measures we highlight the following:

Ordinance 2498/2011 that aims to grant participation of federal entities (states and municipalities) in the process of identification and demarcation of indigenous lands; in order to bypass and edit this measure, the government ignored the decree 1775/96 that establishes the procedures for the demarcation of indigenous lands and already guarantees rights, contrary to the creation of this Ordinance.

Ordinance 419/2011, which regulates the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) in derisive terms in regards to environmental licensing processes, with the goal to facilitate the implementation of projects of the Growth Acceleration Program – PAC (hydroelectric, mining, ports, waterways, roads, transmission lines etc..) in indigenous territories.

Ordinance 303/2012, which proposes to “normalize” the direct and indirect actions of the judicial organs of the Federal Public Administration regarding institutional safeguards related to indigenous lands. Given the desire of landowners and agribusiness, the Ordinance actually seeks to extend to all indigenous territories conditions that have been decided by the Federal Supreme Tribunal (Supremo Tribunal Federal – STF) in the Lawsuit Raposa Serra do Sol (Petition 3.888-Roraima/STF). The Government enacted (wrote) the Ordinance even though the Federal Supreme Tribunal decision on the declared Raposa Serra do Sol embargos have not yet become final, and these constraints may change or even be removed by the Supreme Court. The Ordinance 303 affirms that indigenous lands can be occupied by military units, stations and other military interventions, road networks, hydroelectric dams and mining extraction for strategic purposes, without consulting the indigenous communities and the FUNAI; determines the revision of work- in-progress land demarcations and the revision of already demarcated indigenous land that are not in accordance with what the Supreme Court decided in the case of the Raposa Serra do Sol, therefore attacking the autonomy of indigenous peoples over their territories, limiting and weakening the right of indigenous peoples on the exclusive use of existing natural resources on indigenous lands even so it is a right already secured by the Federal Constitution; transfers to the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBIO) the control of indigenous lands, with superimposed unduly and illegally Conservation Units (CUs) and creates problems for the revision (extention) of the limits of demarcated indigenous lands where the indigenous right to traditional land occupation was not fully observed.

PETITION

We, the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) came to meet the Human Rights Mechanisms of the United Nations, to urge for a stricter monitoring of the situation of indigenous rights in Brazil, in particular the violations of their rights, perhaps allowing joint action by various Rapporteurs, that may promote, for example, a joint mission with the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR), to verify the application of ILO Convention 169 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

On occasion we would suggest that the United Nations create an online language translation for any follow-up UN member countries that do not speak the official language also can make their complaints as is our case of indigenous peoples in Brazil.

Confident count on your support and attention we parted at the same time as we prepare to clarify any matter addressed herein.

Sincerely,

Uilton Manoel dos Santos / Indigenous People’s Tuxá

National Board for Coordination of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil – APIB

*******************

Translated by EARTH PEOPLES. Click here to read:original in portuguese

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay: “China must cease human rights violations in Tibet”

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

2 November 2012, the United Nations human rights chief urged China to address the allegations of rights violations in Tibet, which have led to an alarming escalation of “desperate” forms of protest in the region, including self-immolations.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said she was disturbed by “continuing allegations of violence against Tibetans seeking to exercise their fundamental human rights of freedom of expression, association and religion,” and pointed to “reports of detentions and disappearances, of excessive use of force against peaceful demonstrators, and curbs on the cultural rights of Tibetans.”

Ms. Pillay, who has had several exchanges with the Chinese Government on these issues, according to a news release from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said authorities need to do more to protect human rights and prevent violations.

“I call on the Government to respect the rights to peaceful assembly and expression, and to release all individuals detained for merely exercising these universal rights,” she said.

Among the cases reported is that of a 17-year-old girl who was severely beaten and sentenced to three years in prison for distributing flyers calling for Tibet’s freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama. Others have been sentenced to up to seven years in prison for writing essays, making films or distributing photos of events in Tibet outside of China. Serious concerns have also been raised about fair trial standards, and the torture and ill-treatment of detainees.

The human rights chief appealed to Tibetans to refrain from resorting to extreme forms of protest and urged community and religious leaders to use their influence to help prevent any further loss of life.

“I recognize Tibetans’ intense sense of frustration and despair which has led them to resort to such extreme means,” she noted, “but there are other ways to make those feelings clear. The Government also needs to recognize this, and permit Tibetans to express their feelings without fear of retribution.”

Ms. Pillay also urged the Government to allow independent and impartial monitors to visit and assess conditions on the ground and to lift restrictions on media access to the region. There are currently 12 outstanding requests for official visits to China by UN Special Rapporteurs on various human rights issues, including freedom of religion and belief.

Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

“Deep underlying issues need to be addressed, and I call on the Government to seriously consider the recommendations made to it by various international human rights bodies, as well as to avail itself of the expert advice being offered by the UN’s independent experts on human rights,” she said, adding that OHCHR stands ready to assist on these issues and promote best practices with regard to the protection of minorities.

In a separate development, OHCHR today welcomed last week’s announcement of the passage of China’s first mental health law by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.

“We have only just received the Chinese text of the law and we have not yet managed to analyze it in detail but we understand that it addresses some key areas of concern. For example, it provides that individuals with psychiatric conditions who are deemed unlikely to cause harm to themselves or others should not be held in psychiatric institutions against their will,” OHCHR’s spokesperson, Rupert Colville, told reporters in Geneva.

“The law should provide an important framework for civil society in China to monitor and advocate on mental health care issues, and for persons suffering such disabilities to better claim their rights and entitlements,” he added.

National Indigenous Peoples Organization from Brazil submitted Human Rights Complaints Documents to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Geneva, 13.11.2012   At a meeting with various UN officials from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the organization National Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) submitted a document that listed human rights violations and complaints about proposed laws in Brazil that would, if approved, undermine or even entirely remove indigenous peoples rights.

One of the law’s, Ordinance 303, was already approved but awaits the final decision by the Brazilian Supreme Court, which is currently considering if it is actually constitutional.

It would be truly disastrous if this law would become active, because it denies the indigenous peoples their right to say no to projects on their land, such as streets, mining projects, or hydroelectric dams. Brazil’s Ordinance 303 would violate rights that are international human rights standard,  such as the ILO Convention 169, or the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, because the Ordinance would deny indigenous peoples their right to be consulted, and to decide freely, without pressure, prior informed if the want to consent to a development project on their territory, or not.

Another proposed law, PEC 215, is also causing many sleepless nights for indigenous leaders in Brazil. Still awaiting the approval by Congress, this law would literally dissolve the rights of indigenous peoples to their traditional territories.

To read the original document submitted by APIB to the OHCHR in Portuguese CLICK HERE

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

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Opuwo, Namibia,  20 January 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OUR DEMANDS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chief Hikuminue Kapika, area of Okanguati

Chief Hosea Tjimuine, area of Otjondeka

Chief Ronald Mumbuu, area of Ombombo

Chief Thimoteus Kututa, area of Ombepera

Chief Gerson Razapi Kavari, area of Otavi (Okaoko)

Chief Festus Uetupa Ndjai, area of Okorosave

Chief Mbuze Uatiza Tjijeura, area of Otjerunda

Chief Mujazire Ngumbi Tjambiru, area of Etanga

Chief Frans Uazeuerike Tjauira, area of Okarivizu

Chief Herunga Jakise, area of Otuvero

Chief Kaahazongoro Mbunguha, area of Otjiu

Chief Rikius Kujambera, area of Ondore

Chief Kautaurua Maundu, area of Otjivero

Chief Veimba Muharukua, area of Ongongo

Chief Matheus Veenduavi Ruhozu, area of Oukongo

Chief Cornelius Tjiheiue Tjondu, area of Orokapare

Chief Muhihamo Tjindunda, area of Ehomba

Chief Maemujeka Mbendura, area of Epembe

Chief Hijamavare Mbinge, area of Oruvandjei

Chief Uatembua Muharukua, area of Ozohaviria

Chief Jonas Ngombe, area of Orotjitombo

Chief Hijazomanga Musaso, area of Ongango

Chief Muhomure Tjipuiko, area of Omuangete

Chief Uezuvanjo Tjihange, area of Ovijere

Chief Uaandjerua Tjisuta, area of Ekoto

Chief Tjinae Tjingee, area of Otjikojo

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To download the original signed Declaration click here:

http://earthpeoples.org/DECLARATION_HIMBA.pdf

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