Posts Tagged ‘United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people James Anaya’

Mohawk John Kane: Most censored issue in 2012 was the truth about UN Rapporteur James Anaya

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

First in a series of the most censored issues of 2012

By Brenda Norrell, Censored News

TUCSON, Ariz. — What was most censored in Indian country in 2012? John Kane, Mohawk, radio host of Let’s Talk Native Pride, said the UN Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples James Anaya was the most censored issue in 2012.
Kane said, “I think the story around James Anaya was the most mischaracterized and one of the most censored stories.
“Who he is, who he met with in his ‘whirlwind tour’ and his findings were pathetic. The primary observation about the overall condition of Native people was that we needed access to sacred sites?
“Poverty, suicides, domestic violence, violence against women, drop out rates, drug and alcohol issues, continued assimilation, puppet tribal governments, real land claims (not just the right to pray on a site) and he comes up with a recommendation for access and control of certain sacred sites.
“I have news for Mr. Anaya, it’s all sacred. TO READ ENTIRE ARTICLE click here

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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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

Statement of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, upon concluding his visit to his visit to Namibia from 20-28 September 2012

Friday, September 28th, 2012

28 September 2012

“In my capacity as United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, I am today concluding my official visit to Namibia to examine the situation of minority indigenous peoples in the country. Over the last nine days, I have travelled to various parts of Namibia, meeting with representatives and members of various San groups, including the Ju/’hoansi San in Tsumkwe; the Khwe San living in the Bwabwata National Park in the Caprivi and Kavango regions; and the Hi//om San living in and around the Etosha National Park. I also met with representatives of the Ovahimba, Ovazemba and other indigenous peoples in Opuwo. I want to express my gratitude to the indigenous people with whom I met for inviting me into their communities and their lands, and for sharing with me their concerns and their aspirations. Additionally, in the capital city of Windhoek, I met with representatives of the Rehoboth Baster and the Nama people. “Also in Windhoek I met with Government representatives, including from the Office of the Prime Minister and its Division of San Development; the Ministry of Environment and Tourism; the Ministry of Justice; the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement; and the Ministry of Education. I am grateful to the Government for agreeing to my to visit Namibia and for the openness it demonstrated in allowing me to carry out my work freely and independently. While in Windhoek I also met with the Ombudsman, and with representatives of several non-governmental organizations and the various agencies of the United Nations. I appreciate the information they provided and their assistance in the organization of the visit. “In accordance with my mandate from the United Nations Human Rights Council, my examination of the situation of indigenous peoples in Namibia proceeds in light of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007 with the affirmative vote of Namibia. In accordance with the Declaration, indigenous peoples have the right to maintain their distinct identities and cultures as a basis of their development and place in the world, to pursue their own destinies under conditions of equality, and to have secure rights over lands and resources, with due regard for their traditional patterns of use and occupancy. “Like many other countries around the world that have experienced European colonization and waves of migration, indigenous groups that are in the minority in Namibia have suffered injustices in the past that leave them disadvantaged, to varying degrees, in the present. The groups with whom I met shared the common sentiment that, relative to other tribes in the country, they have not seen the promises and benefits brought by Namibia’s independence in 1990 fulfilled for them. These groups have expressed to me a strong desire for greater inclusion in decision-making at all levels, to be able to genuinely set their own priorities for development, and to regain or strengthen rights over lands and natural resources, particularly lands to which they retain a cultural attachment. “I am pleased to see that Namibia has dedicated attention to the development of San and other minority indigenous communities at a high level, and I have observed some encouraging Government initiatives. Overall, however, I have detected a lack of coherent Government policy that assigns a positive value to the distinctive identities and practices of these indigenous peoples, or that promotes their ability to survive as peoples with their distinct cultures intact in the fullest sense, including in relation to their traditional lands, authorities, and languages. “With respect to the San peoples in particular, who were the primary focus of my visit, I recognize that, especially in recent years, the Government has entered into some innovative arrangements with San tribes through which they have been able to increase their control over management of land areas and derive some substantial benefits. These include the conservancy arrangements in Tsumkwe and tourism-related concessions in Bwabwata National Park. In full consultation with the affected peoples, these kinds of innovative arrangements should be expanded and strengthened, along with greater efforts to ensure San peoples’ security of land tenure, which is still in places that I visited all too vulnerable. For example, in Tsumkwe, where the Hi//om San have recognized communal lands, outsiders have been have been erecting fences and encroaching on these lands, a problem that apparently is worsening without an adequate response by the State. “There are still also numerous San communities that were entirely dispossessed of their lands prior to independence, and those lands are now in the hands of the State and private landowners. These communities face serious social and economic conditions with scarce employment opportunities. I met with representatives of the Hi//om San tribe in Oshivelo, for example, who have for decades been living on a plot of land behind the police station as they await their long-promised lands, after having been evicted from their traditional territory in what is now the Etosha National Park in the 1950s. “In recent years the Government has embarked on a resettlement program that involves purchasing land for San and other groups. These resettlement initiatives appear to have positive elements and potential, which require further examination. However, I have learned that more needs to be done to identify adequate lands for resettlement and to develop land-use planning arrangements, in consultation with the affected San communities, as well as to provide ongoing support for the sustainable development of resettled communities. “In this connection, I believe there needs to be a reevaluation of the adequacy of measures taken in response to the removal of Hi//om people from the Etosha National Park prior to independence. I acknowledge that the purchase of farms adjacent to the park for the resettlement of some Hi//om people may be a step in right direction to provide redress for their removal from the park. However, as is the case with other resettled communities, these San communities require support in order to ensure that they can sustain themselves and thrive in the lands to which they have been resettled. Additionally, close consideration needs to be given to the unresolved claims of the Hi//om San people to lands within the Etosha National Park, as well as to their expressed desire to participate in the management of that park. Further, San people who today reside in the park should not be coerced into leaving. “All of the groups with whom I met uniformly expressed to me their strong desire for increased educational opportunities, but identified numerous barriers in this connection. Despite the guarantee in the Constitution that primary schooling be provided free of charge, and the commendable policy of the Ministry of Education to provide early schooling in indigenous languages, I have heard numerous accounts that these directives are not being effectively implemented on the ground. I also heard across the country that San children have been reluctant to attend school because they face discriminatory treatment by teachers and bullying by peers. I am concerned about reports that I heard in Opuwo that Ovahimba children are forced to cut their hair and remove their traditional dress in order to be allowed access to the public schools. “Finally, concerns were expressed among all the groups with whom I met that many communities do not have recognized traditional authorities. In absence of such recognition, minority indigenous communities are often placed under the jurisdictions of chiefs of neighboring dominant tribes, who make decisions on behalf of the minority communities. In this regard, I heard from unrecognized Ovahimba chiefs that they have not been informed about mining activities taking place on lands where the Ovahimba communities graze their livestock, an activity that is central to their livelihoods and culture. The lack of recognition of traditional chiefs is, in accordance with Namibian law, related to a lack of recognition of the minority indigenous tribes’ communal lands. I will further examine this issue the other issues I have mentioned as I prepare my report. “In the following weeks, I will be reviewing the information I have received during the visit in order to develop a report to evaluate the situation of minority indigenous peoples in Namibia. This report will be made public and will be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council. I hope that that this report will be of use in the search for solutions to the ongoing challenges that indigenous peoples in the country face, and to advance their rights in accordance with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other relevant international instruments.”


To read 11 July 2011 statement from United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, Ms. Catarina de Albuquerque CLICK HERE

HIMBA+ZEMBA updates about UN Special Rapporteur James Anaya visit in Namibia -26 September 2012

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

By Rebecca Sommer

Traditional Himba leader Chief Kapika signing the Himba invitation to James Anaya (Photo © Rebecca Sommer, 2012)

Traditional Himba leader Chief Kapika signing the Himba invitation to James Anaya (Photo © Rebecca Sommer, 2012)

The traditional Himba and Zemba leaders of Namibia informed that the meeting with James Anaya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, that took place in Opuwo, Namibia, on the 26 Sept 2012, went well and as they had envisioned and hoped for. The room was packed with Himba and Zemba, patiently waiting for him to arrive.

At the beginning of this year, Himba leaders wrote an invitation letter to  James Anaya, requesting him to come for a country visit in order to investigate the human rights violations against the semi-nomadic Himba and Zemba. In three historic Declarations, signed by the traditional chiefs of  the Ovazemba (Zemba) and Ovahimba (Himba),  a number of serious issues where raised.

They claim that the problem is that Namibia is ruled by Ovambo,  the majority tribe of Namibia, and the Himba and Zemba, a minority in the country. They explain in their Declarations why they feel that they,  a distinct people, are not only marginalized by the ruling party SWAPO, but that their way of life and culture is threatened. That their own indigenous governance system is not respected and actually disabled by the Government of Namibia – that doesn’t recognize the legitimate traditional Himba and Zemba chiefs. The Declarations cover complaints about the culturally non-appropiate educational system (they don’t want to be pressed into an old style british kind of school system, that denies their children to remain in their traditional cloths and indigenous tribal identity), the lack of Free, Prior, Informed Consent, the loss of grazing land through laws that allow privatization and fencing of communal lands so important for the roaming semi-nomadic cattle, sheep and goat herders, the lack of land rights and their refusal to accept the planned dam in Orokawe, among many other issues that few tourists that are visiting Namibia are aware about.

“After the Special Rapporteur introduced himself, Himba was given the time to read the DECLARATION BY THE TRADITIONAL LEADERS OF KAOKOLAND IN NAMIBIA, afterwards Ovazemba read their DECLARATION BY THE ZEMBA PEOPLE OF NAMIBIA, and at last the regional Epupa DECLARATION OF THE MOST AFFECTED OVAHIMBA, OVATWA, OVATJIMBA AND OVAZEMBA AGAINST THE OROKAWE DAM IN THE BAYNES MOUNTAIN was read as well.

“No one was against those three Declarations in the packed room, because all the participants were those who are part and parcel of the Declarations. Himba and Zemba are united in our demand and struggle for our human rights.

 Muhapika Munjombara signing the Epupa Declaration against the Orokawe dam (Photo © Rebecca Sommer)

Muhapika Munjombara signing the Epupa Declaration against the Orokawe dam (Photo © Rebecca Sommer)

In a final ceremonial gesture, the only female traditional Himba chief, a position that she inherited from her father and former chief, handed the Declaration of the Himba Leaders of Kaokoland to Anaya, a Zemba Woman was handing over the Ovazemba Declaration and Mutjituika Mutambo from Omuhonga was handing over the Epupa Declaration.” ” said Daniel Muharukua, a well known Himba human rights advocate.

“This was very wonderful, the way we wanted it to be. I think this was tauching the heart of the Special Rapporteur. The discussion was just around the Declarations, because the Special Rapporteur wanted to know how those points in our Declarations affected us, people were giving the reasons why we are negatively affected. When the people were handing over the Declarations, the whole crowd was standing and clabing hands.

Ovahimba Elder (Photo © Rebecca Sommer)

Ovahimba Elder (Photo © Rebecca Sommer)

I think he realized that our Declaration came really from our hearts.

When the Special Reportuer said his concluding words, he thanked the Himba and Zemba people, acknowledged that we came in such large numbers from far away, and that he was pleased to see that we are active to fight for our rights. The last words he said was that we touched his heart, and that when he will be writing his report, we will be reflected in his eyes. He promised to write the report and spreading our situation to the international community.” Muharukua added.

Sadly, the Himba and Zemba won’t be able to attend and participate at the press conference that will take place in Namibia’s capital Windhoeck. I bet, who will attend the press conference are those NGO’s that claim to represent Himba and Zemba.

“We will not able to attend, because the time was too short to arrange this journey, there is no money to take people there for the transport, food and accommodation. I am sorry for that. You know how the indigenous peoples Ovahimba and Ovazemba are living.” Muharukua ended with these words his report to Earth Peoples.

Himba women (Photo © Rebecca Sommer)

Himba women (Photo © Rebecca Sommer)

You can read more articles about Himba and Zemba on Earth Peoples blog.
EARTH PEOPLES note: read James Anaya’s statement