Posts Tagged ‘Zemba’

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.”

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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.
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EARTH PEOPLES note: read James Anaya’s statement
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UN Special Rapporteur visits Namibia – Meeting with Himba, Zemba, Twa and other Indigenous Peoples

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

By Rebecca Sommer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click on the LINKS below:

DECLARATION BY THE TRADITIONAL HIMBA LEADERS OF KAOKOLAND IN NAMIBIA

DECLARATION OF THE MOST DIRECTLY AFFECTED OVAHIMBA, OVATWA, OVATJIMBA AND OVAZEMBA AGAINST THE OROKAWE DAM IN THE BAYNES MOUNTAIN

DECLARATION BY THE ZEMBA PEOPLE OF NAMIBIA

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

PHOTOS of Himba and Zemba human rights meetings

VIDEOS of Himba indigenous peoples

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

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

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EARTH PEOPLES note: read James Anaya’s statement
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