Posts Tagged ‘peaceful protest march’

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:


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)

1000 Himba+Zemba march again in protest, angered by Namibia’s human rights violations and against plans to build Orokawe dam in the Baynes Mountains

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Namibia: Growing frustration in Kaokoland: 1000 Himba and Zemba protest again against dam and human rights violations, March 25, 2013

By Rebecca Sommer

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

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

EARTH PEOPLES- Namibia, March 26, 2013: Yesterday, about a 1000 Himba and Zemba held a protest march in Opuwo to show the Government of Nambia (GoN) that they had enough.

This was the third protest in a row, but by far the largest.

The two Indigenous semi-nomadic tribes, from the semi-desert northern region of Namibia, began their well-organized and peaceful protest march outside Opuwo town. They came from all directions and remote areas of their traditional territory, Kaokoland, 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 sent members that they could spare, while those staying behind tended 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.

Himba girl with goat (Photo © Rebecca Sommer)

Himba girl with goat (Photo © Rebecca Sommer)

The drought has caused already enormous damage for the self-sufficient semi-nomads, with nearly no rain they weren’t able to farm their gardens, thus they have no maize and other nutritional crops.
The indigenous peoples have already called 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.

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’s party SWAPO, that rules the Government of Namibia.

The Himba and Zemba 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 three Declarations signed by all the traditional Himba and Zemba chiefs at the beginning of last year.
On behalf of the Himba and Zemba, the international human rights group Earth Peoples submitted the Declarations to the United Nations system.




Months later, the United Nations Special Reporter visited the Himba and Zemba and met them in Opuwo, were Himba read their Declaration and handed him another copy, this time in person.
The UN Special Rapportuer Anaya confirmed in his Statement the human rights violations that he had heard the Himba people are facing, which can be read here

Police Car blocking street of Himba and Zemba protest (Photo © Earth Peoples)

Police Car blocking street of Himba and Zemba protest (Photo © Earth Peoples)

Yesterday, when the protesting indigenous tribes arrived near Opuwo town, a Namibian police car blocked the road in front of the marching masses but the Himba and Zemba just passed the police car calmly and peacefully.

Once in the center of Opuwo’s, usually quite empty with nothing much happening there, the streets were flooded by hundreds and hundreds of singing and dancing people, walking towards the place where they were going to meet the governor of the Kunene Region Joshua /Hoebeb.

A letter from the Himba and Zemba letter addressed to the Governor December 5, 2012, remained up-to-date of the protest unanswered. (Read the first Himba Zemba letter to the governour)

Until finally, a security tape was blocking the agreed meeting area.

Himba and Zemba at protest against dam: March 25, 2013 (Photo © Earth Peoples)

Himba and Zemba at protest against dam: March 25, 2013 (Photo © Earth Peoples)

It was a stark contrast, when the governor finally arrived, as can be seen on the photograph. There was a visible barrier of a flimsy yellow security tape between the governmental authority, and the indigenous peoples of the country that are seeking a dialogue and answers to their pressing human rights grievances that they feel have not been addressed.

To the surprise of the Himba and Zemba, governor Joshua /Hoebeb read with a stiff voice a prepared speech, and instead of looking at them and into the eyes of the indigenous leaders in front of him, his eyes were locked on paper.

Instead of having a dialogue with the people, which was what they had envisioned, he chose to underline the fact, that there is the government on one side of the security barrier, flimsy as it was, and the people on the other side of it.

Governor of the Kunene Region Joshua //Hoebeb at Himba Zemba protest (Photo © Earth Peoples)

Governor of the Kunene Region Joshua //Hoebeb at Himba Zemba protest (Photo © Earth Peoples)

But Himba and Zemba waited patiently that he would finish reading from his paper, because they wanted answers, and wanted to heard.

The governor accused in his speech a white supporter that would help the Himba and Zemba with their unreasonable requests, such as the demand to stop any further plans to construct the Orokawe dam (Neckartal Dam project) in the Baynes Mountains. He didn’t explained what kind of help he was referring to. He also accused the Himba and Zemba of being too emotional about the entire issue, and mocked the protesters that their march would bring no results, and informed that there will be held a referendum and that the 88 thousand inhabitants of the Kunene region will decide on the dam. He explained to the Himba and Zemba that the GoN would work hard to resolve the lack of adequate doctors in hospitals, and that the people must be patient, it wouldn’t be that easy as they would think. He didn’t mention anything about the grievance of the leaders, that Ovatwa, a Himba group of hunters and gatherers, are being held up-to-date in a Camp like prisoners or refugees, in the area of chief Kapika. Or why the Government of Namibia is refusing to recognize their rights to culturally appropriate education.

After the speech of the Governor, a young man read the peoples grievances which was translated. A senior Himba headman had a few words. He said that they are not stupid, that they did not come from all directions of Kaoko, to be treated without respect and to listen to empty words, as if they are not intelligent to understand that they meant nothing.

Himba and Zemba at Zemba Himba (Photo © Earth Peoples)

Himba and Zemba at Zemba Himba (Photo © Earth Peoples)

That they came to hand over their complaints, as well as a letter directed to the President, and that they want answers. A Himba protester, holding a protest banner that read “We Himba and Zemba are also humans” stood next to him.

The headman reminded the governor that Kunene is not the original traditional territory of the Himba people, and those areas such as Outjo and Kamanjab would have nothing to do with the Himba and Zemba in the north. That Kaokoland is the land that they are inhabiting for centuries, and that they have the right to decide if they want such a large destructive dam project that would negatively affect them.

He began to outline their repeated reasons why the Himba do not want the construction of the dam, all that can be found in their numerous letters written to governmental authorities including to the Governor, as well as in the Declarations. But the governor, saying that they are unreasonable, cut him short with the promise that he in person would come out and consult with the chiefs and convince them about the dam.

The people met his comment with an uproar, saying that they are not to be forced, nor to be convinced, united they say said “no” to the dam, and that the government should respect that.

The senior headman continued that the Himba and Zemba don’t believe that the GoN was going to allocate more funds to address the shortage of doctors. “The apartheid regime left us with no doctors. But after 24 years the new government could still not solve the problem”, he said.
A female Himba protester said, “Do they really think the Himba and Zemba are that stupid? How many of our problems were addressed? Did the Government of Namibia, or any official, including you (the governor) , came to consult with us? No.”

The Himba and Zemba handed the governor a second letter addressed to the President, signed by the traditional Himba leaders, and left. disappointed.

The governor promised that the President would receive the letter tomorrow (Read Letter to President here:

It will be interesting to see, if the President of Namibia after receiving the letter feels that it is time to speak to two tribes living in his country, that have a very differentiated way of life, customs and culture as the rest of the citizens, and that are clearly not happy.

The Himba and Zemba wrote an additional letter to the Head Office of Ombudsman John Robert Walters, which they will deliver tomorrow to the regional office in Oshakati.

They also forwarded sans of the original signed letters to international human rights group Earth Peoples, with the request to submit them to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights as well as to the UN Special Rapporteur James Anaya. They also mailed today copies to Earth Peoples partners Namrights, a Namibian human rights organization that will forward the letters to the African Union.

What is important to mention, the Himba and Zemba had previously a meeting with solar experts, that gave them an overall view about the possibilities of green, alternative energy that would not block the Kunene River, and would not have the negative impacts on the environment. Also the flooding of the forefather’s graves of the Himba, as well as forced resettlement of the the indigenous peoples wouldn’t be necessary.

Earth Peoples received two days ago notes of a discussion that the Himba and Zemba had over the weekend while gathering in Opuwo for their protest march, in which the Himba that had the meeting with the solar experts shared what they have learned about the alternative of solar, and the hydroelectric dam. Here are the points that the Himba and Zemba would have liked to discuss further with the Governor:

NOTES: Pro and Contra — Dam / Solar:

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

Solar at locations of need for energy:

• 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