ACHPR Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities (WGIP)

Updated in October 2014

Establishment of the WGIP

In 1999, IWGIA held a conference on the situation of indigenous peoples in Africa in cooperation with PINGOs Forum in Tanzania. This conference recommended that the ACHPR should be encouraged to address the human rights situation of indigenous peoples in Africa, as it had never done so before. One of the members of the African Commission - Commissioner Barney Pityana from South Africa - participated in the Tanzania conference and, during the following sessions of the African Commission in Rwanda and Algeria respectively, he brought up the issue of indigenous peoples' rights. Initially, the African Commission tended to reject the issue, as it did not find the term indigenous peoples applicable to African conditions.

During the 28th Ordinary Session of the African Commission, in October 2000, the situation of indigenous peoples was on the agenda as a separate item for the first time. Although the issue was initially not positively received, its inclusion in the official agenda was a major step forward. It gave the Commission and indigenous peoples the possibility of pursuing the matter further. During this session, the Resolution on the Rights of Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa providing for the establishment of a Working Group on Indigenous Peoples/Communities was adopted.

Read the resolution passed at the 28th session - English version

Read the resolution passed at the 28th session - French version

The first task of the Working Group was to produce the report on indigenous peoples in Africa. This involved extensive consultations with African human rights experts and indigenous peoples own organizations. The final report was submitted to and adopted by the ACHPR in 2003. The report, among other things, provides an analysis of the human rights situation of indigenous peoples in Africa seen in the light of the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and includes concrete recommendations to the African Commission. The report was published by the African Commission and IWGIA in 2005.

The resolution providing for the adoption of the report on indigenous peoples in Africa also provided for the continuation of the Working group with a renewed and extended mandate.

Read the resolution passed at the 34th session - English version

Read the resolution passed at the 34th session - French version

Mandate

The mandate of the Working Group, which has been renewed every two years since its establishment, is to:

1. Examine the concept of indigenous people and communities in Africa;
2. Study the implication of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and well-being of indigenous communities, especially with regard to:

  • the right to equality (Articles 2 and 3);
  • the right to dignity (Article 5);
  • protection against domination (Article 19);
  • on self-determination (Article 20); and 
  • the promotion of cultural development and identity (Article 22).

3. Consider appropriate recommendation for the monitoring and protection of the rights of indigenous communities.

Members

The following persons are the current members of the Working Group:

Commissioner Soyata Maiga – Chairperson
Commissioner Lucy Asuagbor – member
Commissioner Pacifique Manirakiza – member
Dr Naomi Kipuri – Expert member
Dr Albert Barume – Expert member
Dr Melakou Tegegn – Expert member
Mr Zephyrin Kalimba – member
Mr Mohamed Khattali – member
Ms Marianne Jensen – member 

Activities

On the basis of this mandate, the Working Group has developed a comprehensive activity programme. This programme includes undertaking country visits, organising sensitisation seminars, cooperating with relevant stakeholders and publishing reports and making research, all with a view to protecting and promoting indigenous peoples’ rights in Africa.

Country missions

The country missions review indigenous peoples’ human rights situation in a particular African country. These missions seek to engage with all relevant stakeholders and to establish dialogue about indigenous peoples’ situation in the country. The mission team therefore holds meetings with government officials, national human rights institutions, civil society organisations, international organisations, academic institutions and indigenous communities in order to gather as much information as possible. The reports from the country missions describe the different meetings held, analyse indigenous peoples’ situation in the given country and provide recommendations to various stakeholders.

To date, the Working Group has undertaken visits to Burundi, Botswana, Central African Republic, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Kenya, Libya, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda and Uganda, and the reports are published once adopted by the African Commission.

Sensitization seminars

The sensitization seminars seek to raise awareness about the African Commission’s policy and work on indigenous issues. The seminars therefore deal with issues such as: the concept of ‘indigenous peoples’ in Africa, indigenous peoples’ human rights situation, the African Charter and the protection it provides indigenous peoples as well as the Working Group’s activities. The seminars are also intended to provide a platform for dialogue between various national stakeholders as well as between these stakeholders and the African Commission. To date, regional sensitization seminars have been held in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Namibia and the Republic of Congo. Moreover media sensitization seminars have also been held in Tanzania and Rwanda.

International processes

The Working Group is also involved with the promotion of indigenous peoples’ human rights at the international level. The Working Group seeks to collaborate with all relevant UN human rights mechanisms such as the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of the Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Expert Mechanisms on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The Working Group has also followed the developments leading to the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN Declaration), and it has engaged with the African Union in order to raise awareness about the ACHPR’s approach to indigenous issues. The Working Group has sought to promote understanding of the fact that the UN Declaration is in line with the ACHPR’s own position as well as with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.