PROGRESS REPORT FOR THE ACHPR WORKING GROUP ON INDIGENOUS POPULATIONS/COMMUNITIES

 

Inter-sessional period between 36th and 37th ordinary session of the ACHPR

(Covering period from November 2004 to April 2005)

 

 

 

The following is a progress report of developments in the activity program of the ACHPR Working Group on Indigenous Populations since its last meeting on the 22 November 2004.

 

 

1. Funding

 

On the 29th December 2004 The Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs approved the funding proposal of the ACHPR Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities with a total amount applied for. This proposal covers most of the planned activities of the Working Group over the next 2 ½ years. IWGIA has been liasing with the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the funding will be challenged through IWGIA which will be overall responsible for the programme and will be in charge of communication with and reporting to the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The ACHPR Working Group on Indigenous Populations will be in charge of implementing the programme and the ACHPR and IWGIA will collaborate closely on coordination and administration.

 

The key components of the programme are as follows:

 

a.      Translation and publication of the report

The African Commissions’ report on indigenous populations/communities in Africa will be translated into and published in all 4 working languages of the African Union. These are: English, French, Arabic and Portuguese. The reports will be officially distributed by the African Commission to all member states of the AU, national human rights institutions, relevant UN agencies, major development agencies, African human rights NGOs, indigenous peoples’ organizations, universities, libraries etc.

 

b.      Country visits

Part of the mandate of the Working Group is to undertake country visits to study the human rights situation of indigenous populations/communities in Africa. Each of these official country visits will be undertaken by one of the commissioners of the Working Group accompanied by one of the indigenous experts of the Working Group and the African Commissions secretary to the Working Group. A total of 4 visits will be undertaken.

 

The main objectives of country visits will be to:

 

 

c. Research and information country visits

Six research and information country visits will be carried out by the indigenous members of the Working Group and/or by experts from the resource network associated with the Working Group. The objectives of the visits are to disseminate information about the report and position of the African Commission on the rights of indigenous populations to governments and other stakeholders and to gather information about the human rights situation of indigenous populations in these countries. It will be aimed to organize small information meetings in connection with these country visits with the different stakeholders. Reports will be produced from all of these visits and included in the 6 months reports of the Working Group to the sessions of the ACHPR.

 

The research and information country visits will include the same issues as the official country visits.

 

d. Establishment of an advisory network

An advisory network of experts will be established. The Working Group can consult various issues with members of this network and it can ask members to carry out specific tasks for the Working Group. Members of the network cover all regions of Africa and they all have expertise on indigenous issues.

 

e.       Compilation of database

A database of indigenous organisations in Africa will be compiled. The purpose of this is to strengthen communication between the African Commission and indigenous peoples’ organisations in Africa.

 

f.        Regional sensitisation seminar

One regional sensitisation seminar will be held on the African Commission’s approach to indigenous issues. The objective will be to sensitise major stakeholders in the region about the approach of the African Commission on the issue of the human rights of indigenous populations. The seminar will inform about the concrete work of the African Commission on promoting and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples and it will invite discussions and dialogue with African governments and other key stakeholders on constructive ways forward.

 

g.      Information work

Information work on the report and the African Commission’s approach to indigenous issues will be done at national level by members of the Working Group or persons in the resource network. The main objective of this activity will be to mobilise the national media to disseminate information about the situation of indigenous peoples and the work of the African Commission.

 

h. Coordination with the UN human rights mechanisms and treaty bodies

The African Commission’s Working Group should as far as possible seek to collaborate with relevant UN human rights mechanisms such as the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of the Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples.

 

i. Research

The Working Group will seek to undertake research on legislative and constitutional protection of indigenous peoples in Africa.

 

 

2. Progress in the activity plan

 

Since the last meeting of the Working Group on the 22 November 2004, the following activities relating to the comprehensive activity plan of the Working Group have been carried out:

 

a. Publication of the report

The report of the ACHPR Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities has been published in English and French. It is a co-production between the ACHPR and IWGIA and it has been printed both in Denmark an in the Gambia. The report debates the identification of indigenous peoples in Africa, documents violations of their fundamental human rights, analyses the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights with a view to protection of indigenous peoples’ rights and makes recommendations to the ACHPR for advancing the protection of indigenous peoples’ human rights.

 

b. Launch of the report

The report has been launched in Geneva on the 12th April 2005 during the 61st Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. The report was launched jointly by the ACHPR and the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA).

 

The report was presented by commissioner Chigovera, chairman of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities

 

Other speakers of the panel were:

·        Rodolfo Stavenhagen, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples

·        Francesca Thornberry, the ILO

·        Joseph Ole Simel, Mainyoito Pastoralist Integrated Development Organization (MPIDO), Kenya

 

Both Rodolfo Stavenhagen, Francesca Thornberry and Joseph Ole Simel highly welcomed the report and emphasized that the report is a milestone and a major breakthrough for the recognition of indigenous peoples in Africa and an important foundation for future efforts to promote and protect the their human rights. It was appreciate by the speakers as well as by other participants that the ACHPR by adoption of the report and its ongoing work is playing a key role for recognition and protection of indigenous peoples in Africa. Some participants also emphasized that the report and the work of the African Commission on indigenous peoples’ rights can make a unique contribution to international standard setting on indigenous peoples’ rights issues.

 

Rodolfo Stavenhagen expressed the hope that the African Commission and the UN can develop a collaboration and work together towards concrete solutions to the many problems faced by indigenous peoples in Africa.

 

Francesca Thornberry highlighted ILO’s interest in collaborating with the African Commission and she informed that plans are already in the pipeline for doing a joint research project between the African Commission and the ILO on the legal and constitutional rights of indigenous peoples in Africa.

 

Around 40 - 50 people participated in the launch. Unfortunately no African governments were present despite the fact that they had all been invited.

 

c.       Translation of the report into Arabic

The report is presently being translated into Arabic and it is expected to be printed before the next session of the ACHPR.

 

d.      Distribution of the report

It will be a challenge to ensure wide distribution of the report to member states of the AU, the AU institutions, national human rights institutions, NGO, indigenous organizations, relevant UN agencies, international donor organizations and institutions of higher learning.

 

e. Country visits

Letters have been sent to the governments of Kenya and Tanzania requesting for missions to be undertaken by the ACHPR Working Group on Indigenous Populations in February 2005. Dr. Kipuri and Commissioner Nyanduga were sent copies of the letters to the Governments and made follow-ups. Reminders were sent from the Secretariat of the African Commission. No replies have been received.

 

Letters have been sent to the government of Botswana and Namibia.

 

e. Research and information country visits

A set of general Terms of References (TOR) have been developed for the research and information country visits.

 

A research and information country visit has been carried out to Burundi from the 27 March to the 8 April 2005. The visit was carried out by Mr Zephyrin Kalimba, member of the Working Group and by Mr. Albert Barume, member of the advisory network of experts to the Working Group. A summary of key finding and recommendations reads as follows:

 

 

REPORT OF THE INFORMATION VISIT TO BURUNDI (27 March to 9 April 2005)

 

Mr. Zephirin Kalimba, a member of the African Commission Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities, undertook a information country visit in Burundi from March 27 to May 9, 2005. He was accompanied by Dr. Albert K. Barume, a member of the Advisory Network of Experts identified to assist the Working Group.

 

According to the Working Group’s internal general terms of reference, this visit had the following main objectives:

-         Disseminating information to the government of Burundi, regional/local authorities, national human rights institutions, human organisations, international agencies, indigenous peoples’ organisations, media etc. about the report and position of the African Commission on the rights of indigenous peoples,

-         Gathering information about the human rights situation of indigenous peoples in Burundi and report to the AFCHR,

-         Distributing the report of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

 

Burundi is a country of about 8 million people, divided in three main ethnic groups which are Hutu (about 84%), the Tutsi (about 14%) and the Batwa (about 2%). The later section of Burundian population constitutes in fact a component of the ‘pygmies’ indigenous peoples, recognised as the most ancient dwellers of most African tropical forests. Several studies confirm that these prior inhabitants of most forested areas of central Africa could be as many as 300,000 called by different names depending on the country they are found in: ‘Aka’ or Bambemdjelle’ in Congo-Brazzaville, ‘Baka’, ‘Bagyeki’ and ‘Medzan’ in Cameroon, ‘Batwa’, or ‘Efe’ in the Republic Democratic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda.

 

Burundi is also a country whose history has been characterised by cycles of armed conflicts between the two main ethnic groups, namely the Hutu and the Tutsi. This bipolarisation of Burundian political scene has been damaging to indigenous peoples Batwa who do not enjoy the rights to education, land, health, and public services on the same footing with all other Burundian. This is despite the ratification by this country of numerous international instruments that require special attention to all communities that identify themselves as indigenous, like the Batwa.

 

However, Burundi is one of those rare central African countries where the issue of Batwa indigenous peoples is coming out with signs of hope. This community is currently represented in both Parliament and Senat. Furthermore, the current Burundian Constitution set aside three seats for Batwa in both the Parliament and the Senat.

 

The member of the mission were technically assisted by UNIPROBA ((Unissons-nous pour le développement des Batwa) Burundian Batwa-owned local NGO. The Team enjoyed particularly the help of Hons. MP. Liberate NICAYENZI, a Twa woman member of Parliament, who also accompanied the team to all meetings.

 

The members of the mission met with several governments officials, international organisation and members of the civil society, including the Deputy Speaker of the Burundian Parliament, members of the Senate, the ministers in charge of social affairs and gender, education, foreign affairs, human rights, justice, land and health. Meetings were also held with the United Nations peace mission in Burundi (ONUB), the office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights in Burundi, representative of the country office of the World Bank, UNICEF, national  and international NGOs including Ligue ITEKA, UNIPROBA, Care International, Christian Aid/UK and several private and official media.

 

It emerged from all these meetings that Batwa are recognised as one of the most vulnerable sections of Burundian population. Almost all people and organisations the Team discussed with highlighted the extreme poverty of Batwa, their children inaccessibility to schools, their landlessness, their inaccessibility to health services, their unemployment and the threat of extinction to their culture. Forced expulsion of Batwa from their ancestral lands remains frequent in Burundi. This community continue to suffer also from customary practices similar to slavery. 

 

Despite the above worrying picture of the current situation of Batwa in Burundi, almost all governmental, intergovernmental, international and non governmental organisations operating in this country do not have specific programmes designed to address Batwa’s special needs so that members of this community can enjoy rights and fundamental freedoms on the same footing with the majority of Burundian.

 

This mission report is made of four sections. The first section gives a social and political post card of Burundi. The second section provides details on all the meetings, whilst the third deals with thematic issues namely land, education, participation in the country’s management, customary practices similar to slavery and finally Batwa refugees in Rwanda. The last section outlines relevant recommendations to the African Commission.

 

In the light of what have been said, the Team recommends:

-         To call upon the Burundian government to extend measure of positive discrimination on behalf of the Batwa beyond seats in Parliament and Senate,

-         To carry out a profound study on customary practices similar to slavery still affecting the Batwa in Burundi

-         To convince  the Burundian government to ratify the African Charter on the rights and welfare of  children and the convention on contemporary forms of slavery,

-         Call upon the Working Group of the African Commission to visit Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda on the same trip to the Great Lakes region

-         To put pressure on the Burundian government, United Nations and other development agencies to include special measures and policies for the Batwa into their programmes and activities

-         To follow closely the situation of the Batwa refugees who have crossed into Rwanda for fear of political reprisals,

-         To support translation of the report on Kirundi and its dissemination in the country,

 

 

f. Cooperation between the Working Group and UN bodies

Contact has been established between the ACHPR Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities and the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights and the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples. The UN Special Rapporteur Mr Rodolfo Stavenhagen and the African member of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations Mr. El Hadj Guisseé had a meeting with the ACHPR Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities on the 25th April 2005. Information on the mandates and work of the 3 mechanisms were exchanged and ideas were developed for future cooperation. The meeting was very fruitful and constructive and all 3 mechanisms agreed that cooperation is important and should be further consolidated. A good foundation has been established and this will be followed up and elaborated further. The Special Rapporteur and the member of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations will participate in the 37th session of the ACHPR, and this marks the dawn of important collaboration between the Un and the ACHPR in this important field of human rights. 

 

The chairman of the ACHPR Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities had a meeting with the ILO in Geneva on the 11th April 2005 in connection with the launch of the report. The report of the ACHPR on indigenous populations has received much interest and attention in the ILO.

Participants in the meeting were:

 

African Commission

Andrew Chigovera, Chairperson, Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities, and Commissioner, African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights.

 

Indigenous Representation

Joseph ole Simel, indigenous (Maasai) representative, Maniyoto Pastoralists Integrated Development (MPIDO), Kenya.

 

ILO

Karen Curtis, Deputy Director, NORMES

Carmen Sottas, NORMES

Martin Oelz, NORMES

Graciela Jolidon, NORMES

Francesca Thornberry, PRO 169, NORMES

Joost Kooijmans, International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC)

Maria José Chamorro, IPEC

Jurgen Schwettman, Chief, Cooperatives Branch (COOP)

Huseyin Polat, INDISCO, COOP

Julian Havers, INDISCO, COOP

 

 

3. Plans of the Working Group for the next 6 months

 

The ACHPR Working Group on Indigenous Populations had a constructive full day meeting on the 26th April 2005 prior to the start of this session. At the meeting the progress of work since its last meeting prior to the 36th session was evaluated and plans were made for forthcoming 6 months period. .

 

It was decided to carry out the following activities before the 38th session of the ACHPR:

 

  1. Undertake a country visit to Botswana and Namibia
  2. Undertake a country visit to Kenya
  3. Undertake research and information country visits to Libya, Tunesia, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Congo Brazzaville
  4. Hold a regional sensitization seminar preferably in Kenya. Alternatively in Cameroon or South Africa.
  5. Publish the report in Arabic.
  6. Translate the report into Portuguese
  7. Ensure wide distribution of the report to all stakeholders
  8. Produce an information folder about the work of the ACHPR on the rights of indigenous populations.
  9. Establish a database of indigenous organizations in Africa to be used for communication and information flow.
  10. Make a substantive annual report of the work of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities
  11. Maintain communication with the ILO on modalities and funding possibilities for the research work on legislation and constitutional protection of the rights of indigenous peoples.
  12. Maintain communication and collaboration with the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous  Peoples

 

 

1st May 2005