PROGRESS REPORT OF THE ACHPR’S WORKING GROUP ON INDIGENOUS POPULATIONS/COMMUNITIES
Inter-sessional period between 39th and 40th ordinary sessions of the ACHPR
This is a brief progress report about developments in the activity program of the ACHPR Working Group on Indigenous Populations since its last meeting from 7-8 May 2006. The report describes the activities undertaken by the Working Group between the 39 th and 40 th intersession period of the African Commission. The activities include the organisation of a regional sensitisation seminar, research and information visits, conferences attended, distribution and dissemination of the Working Group’s Report, finalisation of reports adopted at the 38 th ordinary session of the African Commission, the database, information sheet (folder). The report also provides for activities to be undertaken within the next six months.
Regional sensitisation seminar
The Working Group successfully organised a four day regional sensitisation seminar on the rights of indigenous populations/communities in central Africa in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
Organized by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in collaboration with IWGIA, and hosted by the Government of the Republic of Cameroon, the Regional Sensitization Seminar on the Rights of Indigenous Populations/Communities in Central Africa took place in Yaounde, Cameroon, from 13 – 16 September 2006.
The opening Ceremony was chaired by His Excellency, Adoum Gargoum, Minister Delegate to the Minister of External Relations in Charge of Relations with the Islamic World, in the presence of HE Dr. Joseph Dion Ngute, Minister Delegate to the Minister of External Relations in charge of Relations with the Commonwealth.
The opening ceremony was also attended by other members of the government of Cameroon, members of the Diplomatic Corps, state delegates from the Central African region, members of the African Commission, international organisations and relevant organs of the African Union and representatives of National Human Rights Institutions from the Central African region, international and local NGOs, journalists, the academia and other institutions interested in indigenous issues in Africa were also in attendance.
Various issues related to the human rights of indigenous populations in Central Africa were discussed by State Delegates, National Human Rights Institutions and resource persons. The issues discussed include inter alia:
- The legal protection of the rights of indigenous populations in Central Africa;
- Poverty amongst indigenous populations and their situation with regards to health and education;
- The importance of land for the survival of indigenous populations; and
- Factors responsible for land dispossession.
The seminar was well covered by the media in Cameroon, both via TV, radio and newspapers.
The seminar successfully managed to establish constructive dialogue between governments, national human rights institutions, NGOs and other stakeholders, and all parties expressed their appreciation of the usefulness of the seminar.
The Final Communique is available at the Secretariat of the African Commission and a comprehensive report will be produced shortly.
Based on the positive outcome of the Central African seminar, the Working Group on Indigenous Populations hopes to organize similar seminars in other regions of Africa.
The Working Group is undertaking a joint research project with the ILO and with the University of Pretoria as the implementing institution. A workshop was held in Cameroon in 18 – 20 September 2006 to discuss the scope, methodology and time frame for this research project. The research will focus on the extent to which African constitutions and legislation protect the rights of indigenous peoples. It will carry out desk reviews of all African countries and in depth studies of 10 selected countries representing the 5 African regions.
During the period under consideration, Dr. Naomi Kipuri, Expert Member of the Working Group, accompanied by Mr. Korrir Singoie from the expert network of the Working Group undertook an information and research visit to Uganda from 24 – 31 July 2006. The team looked at the human rights situation of the Batwa people and the pastoralist communities in Uganda, including issues such as discrimination, land dispossession, lack of access to health and education and human rights violations in conflict situations.
The Secretariat continues to secure authorisation for information and research visit to Algeria and Ethiopia. After consultation with Mr. Mohammed Khatali, a letter was sent to the Algerian authorities requesting a visit for February 2007. The Secretariat is still to hear from Ethiopia on its request for a visit by Dr. Kupuri.
A Note Verbale requesting a mission by the Working Group to Tanzania was sent in August 2006 and the mission is planned for February 2007. The Secretariat is pursuing the request with the Tanzanian authorities.
The Working Group on Indigenous Populations has published a summary version of its expert report on the rights of indigenous peoples. The summary report has been produced in both English and French and is available from the secretariat of the African Commission as well as from IWGIA. The summary report will be widely distributed to African governments, national human rights institutions, national and international NGOs, indigenous organizations and others.
Dissemination and Sensitation
During the Seminar in Cameroon, the Secretariat distributed more than 100 copies of the Working Group’s Report. Other documents distributed included the information folder and some other publications of the Commission. Copies of the report were also given to members of the African Commission during their promotional missions to African countries and official missions to other parts of the world. The report has furthermore been distributed to all Scandinavian embassies in Africa, major international development NGOs and UN agencies in Africa.
Collaboraton with the UN System
In May 2006 Commissioner Rezag Bara participated in the UN Permanent Forum on indigenous issues in New York where he informed about the African Commission’s work on the rights of indigenous peoples.
In October Commissioner Rezag Bara and Naomi Kipuri participated in a seminar in Montreal Canada organized by Human Rights and Democracy dealing with the work of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The seminar sought to identify ways to follow up on the country missions of the Special Rapporteur.
Planned activities for the next six months
The Working Group intends to undertake the following activities during the forthcoming intersession:
- Country mission to Tanzania
- Information/research visits Algeria, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Central African Republic
- Publication and distribution of the Arabic version of the report
- Publication of the reports from country missions and research and information visits
- Update the database of organisations working on indigenous issues in Africa
- Continuing the distribution of the expert report and its summary version (English/French version)