Overview Report of the Research Project by the International Labour Organization and the ACHPR on the constitutional and legislative protection of the rights of indigenous peoples in 24 African countries



When the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) was established more than two decades ago, the question, and the very concept of indigenous peoples in Africa was the least of its priorities. In fact, it was not until 1999 that the question of the rights of indigenous peoples first featured on the agenda of the African Commission. This seeming lack of interest was not deliberate but rather was a reflection of the general approach, perception or understanding of the general public and African decision-makers on the question of indigenous peoples in Africa. The seeming lack of information and insufficient literature on indigenous populations, coupled with the strong resistance from many African States to embrace the idea on the continent, meant that African NGOs did not have sufficient room to express themselves on the issue.

The African Commission was seen by civil society organizations on the continent as the most appropriate forum to table up the plight of indigenous populations. Thus, for at least four consecutive sessions, the African Commission was constantly reminded by African and international NGOs of the plight of indigenous peoples on the continent, characterized by marginalization, exploitation, dispossession, harassment, poverty, illiteracy, etc. The African Commission could no longer remain indifferent to the plight of indigenous populations on the continent, and thus decided to establish a Working Group on the Rights of Indigenous Populations to, inter alia, examine the concept of indigenous populations/communities in Africa.