Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa - 54OS



Commissioner Soyata Maïga

Chairperson of the Working Group

54th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

Banjul, The Gambia

22 October – 5 November, 2013

In accordance with Rule 23(3) of 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 since the 53rd Ordinary Session of the African Commission held in Banjul, The Gambia, from 9 to 23 April 2013.

The report also covers activities carried out by other members on behalf of the Working Group.

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

A.                        Participation in Seminars/Forums

1.   11 – 14 June, 2013

Commissioner Lucy Asuagbor and I participated in two Workshops jointly organized by the Government of Cameroon and the United Nations Sub-Regional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in M’Balmayo (Cameroon). The first Workshop was on the validation of a study on the definition of indigenous peoples in Cameroon commissioned by the Ministry of External Relations of Cameroon. Various stakeholders participated in the Workshop in order to enrich the document.

2.   The second workshop was on the implementation of the recommendations made in Cameroon by bodies established in accordance with the international and regional treaties on its obligations to indigenous peoples.

3.   We made a presentation on the criteria accepted by the African Commission for identifying indigenous peoples in Africa, the mandate and work of the Working Group as well as current best practices in Africa in relation to the promotion and protection of the rights of these marginalized segments.  

17 September, 2013

4.   I participated in the discussions held on the issues of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples which will be held by the United Nations in New York in September, 2014. These discussions were held on the sidelines of the 24th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva (Switzerland). In addition to myself, the Panel was composed of Mr. John Henriksen, co-facilitator of the process towards the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples; Mr. Raja Devasish Roy, member of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; Mad. Tania Pariona, Indigenous Global Coordinating Group, Chief Wilton Littlechild, Chairperson of the Experts’ Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

5.   In my presentation, I stated the aims and objectives of the World Conference in general and the importance of the inclusive participation of indigenous peoples in the process, in line with UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/66/296.

6.   On the various cross-cutting human rights issues relating to human rights which will be discussed and for which the Conference should find solutions, I stressed the recurrent challenges which indigenous peoples in Africa continue to face with particular regard to land, productive resources; health, education and political representation.

7.   I also raised the importance of cooperation with the private sector in the African context as well as the relevance of mainstreaming issues relating to indigenous peoples into all the work of the United Nations system.

8.   I highlighted the crucial role that regional organizations such as the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Country Offices of the specialized agencies of the United Nations could play in providing information to indigenous populations and their organizations on the process towards the World Conference as well as the implementation of future recommendations which will be ultimately adopted.

20 – 21 October, 2013

9.   I chaired the meeting of the Working Group which was held as a prelude to the deliberations of this Session. The members of the Working Group assessed the activities undertaken during the intersession period and identified those which should be included on the agenda of the next intersession period. Various documents were considered and adopted. The Working Group participated in the deliberations of the NGO Forum and met with representatives of the indigenous populations/communities from Kenya and Cameroon to discuss the situation of the rights of their communities. 

B. Notes Verbales/Letters

10.                     On 25 April, 2013, Notes Verbales were sent to the Republic of South Africa and the Republic of Cameroon, requesting these States to authorize the Working Group to visit their countries in order to assess the situation of indigenous peoples within their territories. The Working Group has since not received any response. I would like to seize this opportunity to reiterate our request to the two States Parties for them to give a favourable and prompt response.

Urgent Appeal to Botswana

11.                     In July 2013, I received corroborating allegations from several human rights NGOs to the effect that Mr. Gordon Bennett, the British lawyer of the Basawara people and an expert in indigenous issues, was prevented from entering Botswana, where he was due to represent the community in a High Court case against the Government of Botswana on Monday, 29 July, 2013.

12.                      Following these allegations, I sent an urgent appeal to the President of the Republic of Botswana, reiterating Botswana’s obligations under the African Charter and other relevant regional and international instruments to guarantee the right of all Batswana citizens to a fair trial, particularly the right to be represented by a legal counsel of their choice. I also earnestly urged the President to kindly indicate measures put in place by the relevant departments to deal with this situation. No response has since been received from the Presidency or the government departments.

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

A.   Report of the Research and Information Visit to the United Republic of Tanzania  

13.                     The Working Group undertook a Research and Information Visit from 21 January to 6 February, 2013 to this country. The draft report has been considered and adopted by the Working Group, and will be tabled for adoption by the African Commission during its private session.

B.  Workshop on the Status of Implementation of the Endorois Decision of the African Commission

14.                     The African Commission gave a decision on the Endorois case at its 46th Ordinary Session in November 2009, which was later adopted in February 2010 by the Heads of State and Government of the AU, before being subsequently transmitted to the Parties. In the decision, the Government was requested to report on the status of implementation of the same within three months after its notification, while the African Commission proposed to avail its good offices to assist the Parties in its implementation.

15.                     During the Oral hearing held on the implementation of the decision at the 53rd Ordinary Session of the African Commission, the Government of Kenya, through its representatives, pledged to submit a roadmap on the implementation process within ninety days. However, it did not keep its promise.

16.                     To encourage dialogue between the parties and the satisfaction of the rights of the Endorois, the Working Group organized a workshop in Nairobi on 23 September, 2013 which was attended by several stakeholders in order to consider the status of implementation of the decision and the way forward.

17.                     45 delegates participated in the deliberations of the workshop. These included Prof. James Anaya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Commissioner Pacifique Manirakiza, the Commissioner Rapporteur for Kenya and a member of the Working Group, representatives of the Commission on the Administration of Justice, the National Commission on Human Rights and the Gender and Equality Commission. The Workshop was also attended by members of the Working Group, representatives of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights as well as representatives of civil society organizations and the Endorois community.

18.                     Regrettably, the Government of Kenya did not send any representative to the Workshop, although seven invitations were sent to it and affiliated bodies well ahead of the date of the workshop. As a result, it was not possible to recommend a joint road map for the implementation of the decision at the end of the year, as originally planned.

19.                     However, participants had lengthy and fruitful discussions and agreed on some strategies which could be used to ensure the implementation of the decision. The Final Communiqué of the workshop is available on the website of the African Commission.

C.  Course on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

20.                     The advanced course on the rights of indigenous peoples was organized for the third time this year from 16 to 20 September, at the University of Pretoria, in Pretoria, South Africa. The course was organized by the Centre for Human Rights of the University of Pretoria, in collaboration with ILO, IWGIA and the Working Group. Two Expert members of the Working Group, Dr. Melakou Tegegn and Dr. Albert Barume, and the Assistant to the Working Group, Samuel Tilahun, participated in the course as resource persons

21.                     The course brought together representatives of indigenous peoples, government officials, NGOs, academicians and students from all over Africa. I urge representatives of the States, NGOs, NHRIs and international organizations present here today and interested in the topic to make themselves available for the next courses and to also assist in disseminating the contents to the lager public. For more information, you can visit the Centre for Human Rights website at:

D.                       Focal Points

22.                     In order to formalize, strengthen and sustain collaboration between the Working Group and civil society organizations working on the issue of indigenous peoples, the Working Group identified and contacted 31 NGOs based in 21 African countries for them to serve as Focal Points. Fifteen (15) of them have confirmed their availability and interest to serve as focal points.  

23.                     The mission assigned to the Focal Points is as follows:

 I.            Regularly provide the Working Group with information on the situation of indigenous peoples and the organizations and defenders of the rights of the same in the respective countries;

 II.            Report on the status of implementation of the Working Group’s recommendations, urgent appeals, decisions, recommendations or resolutions of the Commission pertaining to indigenous peoples’ rights;

III.            Assist and collaborate with the Working Group in organizing promotional activities such as sensitization seminars, training workshops, conferences, etc.;

IV.            Assist in the wide dissemination and distribution of information and publications sent to them by the Working Group, and

 V.            Share all other information and work with the Working Group in all areas of common interest.

24.                     The Focal Points are expected to meet the following  criteria/requirements:

I.            Enjoy observer/affiliate status with the Commission or pledge to apply for observer/affiliate status within one year of selection;

II.            Be based or have an office in the country supposed to be covered, and

III.            Work in the area of indigenous peoples’ rights or on human rights or development issues.

25.                     The Working Group is extremely grateful to organizations which have expressed their willingness to work with it, and will continue to work closely with them. 

E. E-newsletter (Electronic Newsletter of the Working Group)

26.                     During the inter-session, the Working Group published the first issue of its electronic newsletter titled « The Voice of the Indigenous». This newsletter is published twice a year with a view to sensitize and create awareness among all stakeholders on the situation and rights of indigenous populations/communities in Africa, as well as the mandate and work of the Working Group. It is available in English and French in electronic version only, and can be accessed at:


27.                     Anyone interested in publishing relevant articles, news and information on the promotion and protection of indigenous peoples’ rights in Africa is kindly advised to contact Samuel Tilahun Tessema at:

F.   Study on Extractive Industries

28.                     Mindful of the impact of extractive industries on the lives of indigenous peoples in Africa, the Working Group, during its last meeting, decided to carry out a « Study on Extractive Industries, Land Rights and the Rights of Indigenous Communities/Populations in East, Central and Southern Africa».

29.                     The study has already begun and is expected to be finalized in October, 2014. It was assigned to an expert identified after a consultation process between this Working Group and the one responsible for the Extractive Industries.   

III.           Recommendations

To States Parties

States Parties are earnestly urged to:

i.             Ratify ILO Convention 169 and to enact specific legislations on the rights of indigenous peoples, in line with the principles enshrined in this Convention and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;

ii.            Refrain from taking any measures which adversely affect indigenous peoples’ rights, particularly with regard to measures aimed at evicting them from their ancestral lands, and

iii.           Respond positively and in a timely manner to the Urgent Appeals and Notes Verbales of the Working Group.

To other stakeholders

i.                  Work closely with the Working Group to ensure that indigenous peoples are recognized and that there are rights fully realized.

ii.              Obtain information and participate actively in the process towards the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.