Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities and Minorities in Africa - 51OS





Madam Soyata MAIGA


Chairperson of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities


51st Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights  


 Banjul, Gambia

From 18 April to 2 May 2012


In accordance with the rules of procedure of the African Commission and in my capacity as the Chairperson of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations / Communities, I present this report on the promotion activities carried out after the 50th Ordinary Session of the African Commission held in Banjul, the Gambia in October- November, 2011.

The report also covers activities carried out on behalf of this Working Group by Experts in the Group.


I – Activities undertaken in my capacity as the Chairperson of the Working Group


1.     Meetings attended


From 29 to 30 November, 2011

I took part in the 4th Forum related to Minority Issues organized in Geneva by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights.

The Forum was a platform for dialogue, discussions  and recommendations initiated by the Human Rights Council through Resolution 6/15  intended to bring thematic contributions as well as practical and relevant expertise on the work carried out by the independent expert on minority-related issues;  to identify and analyze  good practices as well as challenges, opportunities and initiatives leading to an effective implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.

The 4th Forum centred on the promotion and protection of the rights of women belonging to minorities. Several thematic areas were developed and discussed, in particular on : International and regional human rights protection frameworks and recent initiatives taken at the global level in respect of the rights of women belonging to minorities; women and girls belonging to minorities and their right to education ; women belonging to minorities and their effective participation in political, economic, social and cultural life; national practices and experiences: positive measures/ positive actions and models of identification; practical measures to guarantee the rights of women belonging to minorities. The Forum brought together representatives of countries, NGOs and NHRIs and Experts belonging to minorities.

I had the honor to chair part of the deliberations of the Forum and made a presentation on the « Role of the African Commission in Protecting Women’s Rights, Specific Cases of Women belonging to Minorities». Several relevant recommendations were adopted by the participants with the aim of fast-tracking the implementation of laws, plans and policies which guarantee the rights of women and girls belonging to minorities.

13 March, 2012 

I participated in a conference organized by the High Commission on Human Rights in Geneva on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the Declaration on Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious or Linguistic Minorities adopted on 18 December, 1992. Many high-level experts including the Chairperson of the Forum on Minorities attended this Conference as well as representatives of States, NGOs and National Human Rights Institutions.

I moderated a discussion panel on the Role of Regional Human Rights Institutions in sensitizing and promoting the Declaration and presented a paper on the importance of national languages in preserving the identity and culture of persons belonging to national minorities.

From 15 to 17 April 2012

I chaired the meeting of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Banjul prior to the ACHPR Ordinary Session. During the three-day meeting, the discussions focused on activities carried out by Members of the Group during the intersession, among which were publications, assessment of mission reports, the status of communications involving indigenous populations and  discussion on opportunities for  collaboration  and funding by the  IWGIA, the traditional and special partner of the Working Group.


2.     Notes Verbales to Member States


note verbale was sent to the Government of the Central African Republic which responded favorably to a promotion mission to that country in respect of the situation of indigenous populations and the impact of the ratification of ILO Convention 169 by the Central African Republic. The dates of the above-mentioned mission will be determined in the course of the session.


During the intersession, the Final Communiqué of the Congo Brazzaville Seminar held in August 2011 was sent to the Government of the Republic of Congo.

3.     Article written 

I wrote an article on the rights of indigenous women which will soon be published by the African Institute of South Africa. This article, among others, studies the relationship between group rights and individual rights of indigenous women and the extent to which traditional values of indigenous communities impact on the enjoyment of fundamental rights of indigenous women.

4.     Consultation for a study on indigenous populations in Cameroon

I provided guidelines for a study on the situation of indigenous peoples in Cameroon taking due cognizance of the legal opinion and specific developments of the African Commission on the issue, and more particularly on the characteristics of the indigenous populations and the inappropriateness of developing a hard and fast definition on the concept of indigenous populations. This consultation was requested for by Government experts from Cameroon who were tasked to carry out this consultation.

II- Activities carried out by Expert Members of the Working Group


1.     Meeting in Bali, Indonesia

A member of the Working Group, Dr. Melakou Tegegne, participated in a meeting organized by the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights. The purpose of the meeting was to share experiences of the African Commission Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities.

He also attended a regional seminar on the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration in Bali, Indonesia. It was a round-table discussion organized by the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights and supported by the United Nations Development Programme and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The meeting brought together several representatives of indigenous peoples from all countries in East Asia except Burma, two representatives from the Americas and an Expert member of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations / Communities representing Africa, and representatives of the United Nations agencies. The seminar was grouped into the following thematic areas: experiences of other regional human rights mechanisms on the development of Human Rights Declarations/Conventions; human rights and responsibilities; the concept of group and individual rights; exploring national and regional specificities of ASEAN countries within the context of human rights.

Several recommendations were adopted during the Seminar, among which is one on the importance of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration and another one on the co-existence of individual and group rights.

2.     Visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo from 8 to 18 January, 2012

A member of the Working Group, Mr. Zyphrine Kalimba, and the Chairperson of Association pour les Droits de l'Homme et l'Univers Carceral (ADHUC) of Congo, went on a mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) from 8 to 18 January 2012 to distribute the DRC Report and video film on the situation of indigenous people in Africa.  The delegation used the opportunity to follow-up on the recommendations of the Working Group that ensued from its August 2009 visit to the country.

During the mission the delegation visited Goma Bukavu regions and Kinshasa.

In Goma, the members visited a Civil Society Coordination Office; the Governorate, the Offices of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UNDP, MONUSCO, the provincial Police Inspectorate, UNICEF and the UNHCR. Furthermore, they met the Attorney General, and visited the 8th military unit. .

In Bukavu, the delegation met the President of the Appeal Court and visited the UNHCR office, the 10th military unit, OCHA, the Amani Leo operational Command, the UNDP, UN Habitat, UNICEF and the UNFPA.


Furthermore, round tables were organized in the two cities which brought together several participants. A consultative meeting was also organized with the support of the Organization for the Integration of Pygmies and in collaboration with NGOs during which the film and the report were distributed to the audience and the film shown.

3.     Launching and Distribution of the film and report

During the intersession, the video film on the situation of indigenous peoples in Africa was launched in Kenya and Cameroon. In Kenya during the launching ceremony the Report of the Research and Information Visit to Kenya was also distributed. The Minister of Justice of Kenya attended the launching and pledged to implement the recommendations in the report.

In Cameroon the launching of the video film was organized by MBOSCUDA, an organization working on the rights of indigenous people in the country. 

The video film was also widely distributed to all stakeholders including UN agencies and organs such as UNICEF, UNFPA, UNESCO, ILO, the office of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Secretariat of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other stakeholders. It was also distributed to international organizations and civil societies working on the rights of indigenous peoples, and all African embassies in Ethiopia.

4.     Meeting of the Working Group from 15 to 17 April, 2012

The Working Group held its biannual meeting from 15 to 17 April 2012, and discussed various issues. The Working Group finalized and adopted the Report of the Regional Sensitization Seminar on the Rights of Indigenous Populations/Communities in East and Central Africa and the Manual on the Protection and Promotion of Indigenous Peoples Rights through the African Human Rights System.

The Working Group also participated in the NGO Forum’s thematic discussion on the rights of indigenous people, and deliberated on, among others, the following issues:

       i.            Exploitation of natural resources and right to consultation of indigenous peoples;

    ii.            Follow-up on the implementation of the Endorois decision;

   iii.            Killing of some indigenous people in DRC

5.     Publications 

The Reports of the Research and Information Visit to Kenya and Country Visit to the Republic of Congo are now available in book format, and are being widely distributed.

The Summary of the 2003 Report of the Working Group is finalized available in Kirundi language.

III. Conclusion and Recommendations

In spite of the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Populations at the international level in 2007, little progress has been observed in the African countries concerned in terms of specific legislative and other measures intended to consolidate the protection of the rights of vulnerable segments of the society by way of providing them equal access to socio-economic services and to opportunities available in the public services and the grassroots communities.

1.     To the African Union

-         Incorporate an item on the issue of indigenous populations in Africa in the Agenda of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government.

2.     To Member States concerned

-         Develop the use of languages spoken by the national minorities and indigenous populations as a vital component for the preservation of their identity and culture.

-         Guarantee the adoption of affirmative action plans, actual access to basic services by the indigenous communities (schools, health services, civil registration centres, judiciary services etc…)

-         Adopt internal legislation intended to prevent any forms of discrimination against women and girls.

-         Organize awareness-creation campaigns towards the elimination of negative customary and traditional practices which discriminate against women and girls.

-         Formulate human rights education and sensitization programmes by laying particular emphasis on the rights of national minorities and indigenous populations.