Archive 2002





Commonwealth Policy Studies Unit


16th-18th October 2002

Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC)

Cape Town, South Africa

Important delegates to a historic meeting of African Indigenous Peoples in the Commonwealth held this week in Cape Town, dealt with the issues of Commonwealth responsibility to Indigenous Peoples. The meeting sought to bring to an end the ‘invisibility’ of Indigenous Peoples in Commonwealth Africa, thus requiring the member States to give due attention to their human rights and land rights. As a first step member states must identify and acknowledge their Indigenous Peoples, including full demographic information.

At this meeting, Indigenous Peoples called on the Commonwealth African Heads of State to ensure that the Commonwealth Declaration 2003 promotes and protects their rights, and expressed the hope that the South African Government, as Chair of the African Union, would take the initiative.

The delegates called on the Commonwealth to create greater awareness of the issues which affect Indigenous Peoples in all its member countries. Delegates highlighted the importance of Indigenous women’s participation in local or national decision-making processes; Delegates noted with concern the multiple discrimination against Indigenous women in Commonwealth African countries and their poor access to health care, employment opportunities, and welfare facilities. These prevent Indigenous women’s essential contribution to the development processes of their communities.

The Indigenous representatives discussed the particular issues in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Kenya, Uganda, Cameroon, Nigeria and Tanzania, and they determined that the Heads of States and Government in Commonwealth African countries should:

• Recognise the right of Indigenous Peoples to identify themselves as ‘Indigenous’; 

• Make Constitutional provisions to promote and protect the rights of Indigenous Peoples;

• Note the cultural and linguistic diversity that Indigenous Peoples bring to Commonwealth African countries, and which are threatened by policies that marginalise and discriminate against Indigenous Peoples;

• Call for recognition and use of Indigenous languages in local education and media;

• Note the critical role that Indigenous Peoples play in sustainable development in Commonwealth African countries;

• Note and take lead from the South African Government’s efforts towards a full recognition of the rights of its Indigenous Peoples;

• Take a more active and supportive role in the United Nations Working Group on the Draft Declaration on Indigenous Peoples;

• Observe with concern the fact that activities and programmes of transnational corporations and other organizations such as the World Bank, IMF, and WTO, impugn on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, and should pressurise these bodies to ensure that free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples is obtained in all matters of development that affect Indigenous Peoples;

• Note with concern the on-going expulsion of Basarwa/San people from their traditional land, and that their resettlement outside the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana violates their political, economic, social and cultural rights, and ensure that negotiations with the Basarwa/San and Non Governmental Organisations be resumed on this issue;

• Urge the Namibian Government to recognise all the San traditional authorities, in particular the Haillom, Julhoansi, !Xoo and Khwe, in accordance with the Traditional Authorities Act, 1995;

• Note that the Ogiek community in the Mau forest complex in Kenya, which has traditionally lived in a sustainable way, is now being expelled from their ancestral lands and excluded from the development, conservation, management and rehabilitation processes of the forest, resulting in social conflict and environmental de gradation;

• Applaud the recent ruling of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights on Nigeria’s treatment of the Ogoni Peoples, and call on Commonwealth leaders to impress on the Nigerian Government to respect and comply with the ruling;

• Call for a full implementation of the Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Conservation Trust (MBIFCT) clauses meant to benefit the Batwa community in Uganda;

• Note the ongoing marginalisation of the Baka and Bakola Peoples in forest management in Cameroon, and the huge adverse impact of the World Bank funded Chad-Cameroon oil project on the Bakola People of Southern Cameroon.

“Indigenous Peoples in Commonwealth Africa have been systematically forgotten, as if they did not exist”, said Patrick McKenzie, Minister for Cultural Affairs, Provincial Government of Western Cape, who opened the meeting. He said the “horror” of the genocide of the Khoi and the San in South Africa has not come to an end, and that the struggle for the human rights of Indigenous Peoples in Commonwealth Africa is not over.