Namibia: UN Envoy says minorities and indigenous peoples crave inclusion

As the main human rights monitoring and advocacy NGO in Namibia, NamRights welcomes the Statement (click on the link below to download) of UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, upon ending his visit to the African country.

During a media conference held at UN Center in the Namibian capital Windhoek this morning, Anaya pointed out that all the indigenous groups that he has met during his visit “shared the common sentiment” that---despite Namibian independence from apartheid South Africa and unlike other racial groups in the country---they continue to suffer injustices as they have not seen the promises and benefits, which such independence has brought for the country.

“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,” he said.

Anaya also told journalists and NamRights representatives that he has “detected a lack of coherent Government policy that assigns a positive value to the distinct identities and practices of these indigenous peoples, or 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.”

The UN envoy concluded his media briefing noting that all the indigenous groups whom he had met had told him that “many communities do not have recognized traditional authorities.”

“In the absence of such recognition, minority indigenous communities are often placed under the jurisdiction of chiefs of neighboring dominant tribes, who make decisions on behalf of them,” Anaya added.

Through their respective declarations earlier this year, the OvaHimba and OvaZemba peoples accused the Ovambo-controlled government of subjecting them to systematic denial of their right to self-determination, and demand that they must be allowed to choose their own representatives and leaders, determine freely their political institutions, maintain and preserve their own governance structures and freely pursue their socio-economic and cultural development in accordance with their own pace and space.

“We are not consulted, included in any decision-making processes, nor are we heard when we object. We are therefore the marginalized and oppressed tribes in our country Namibia,” they say.

Making up more than 50 percent of Namibia’s population of 2.2 million, the Ovambo people are the single most dominant ethnic constituent in post-independence Namibian politics.

In addition to the Ovambo, OvaHimba and OvaZemba, Namibia is composed of at least 10 other ethnic groups. However, none of the remainder of the country’s national, or ethnic and linguistic minorities comprises more than 10 percent of Namibia’s population.

“Anaya’s findings confirm what we and the concerned indigenous peoples themselves have been saying all along, which the Government has, unfortunately, ignored. Therefore, we are highly appreciative of the Special Rapporteur’s statement and we hope that his visit will impress upon the Namibian Government the urgency and seriousness with which the rights of indigenous minority groups must be respected, protected and fulfilled,” said NamRights executive director, Phil ya Nangoloh.

Photo: James Anaya


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Date: 01/10/2012




Culture and Tradition
Indigenous Peoples
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