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African Commission examines States compliance of human rights  

April 23 2016

Commissioners and members of the ACHPR's Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities
With a focus on armed conflicts and shrinking space for human rights defenders, from 6th to 20th of April 2016, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights celebrated its 58th Ordinary session in Banjul, The Gambia

By IWGIA

A recurrent theme during the session was the evolving armed conflicts threatening the stability of many African States. The issue of antiterrorism responses as a contributing factor to an ever shrinking space for the activities of legitimate human rights defenders was also strongly brought up during debates. This is a trend which worries indigenous peoples’ organisations and human rights defenders in Africa, who find it increasingly difficult to operate.

During the session, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights closely examined the contemporary human rights situation of indigenous peoples in Namibia, South Africa and Mali after these countries submitted their state reports to the Commission in accordance with Article 62 of the African Charter.

Namibia Shadow Report

In order to examine and properly scrutinise such state reports, IWGIA has supported the Legal Assistance Center in Namibia in producing a shadow report.

The Namibia shadow report points to the fact that there have been significant developments which bear positive potentials for Namibia’s indigenous peoples. These are among others:

  • The establishment of the Division of Marginalised communities under the office of the Vice-President which aims at targeting IP communities;
  • The appointment of a San man, Hon. Royal /Ui/o/oo, as Deputy Minister for Marginalised Communities;
  • The continued effort to establish a Namibian Indigenous Peoples Advocacy Platform (NIPAP)

However, in spite of positive developments the Namibian government:

  • Still prefers to use the term ‘marginalised communities’ and does not accept the term ‘indigenous peoples’ as such
  • Has still not ratified the ILO Convention no. 169
  • Continuously fail to address the imperative issue of IPs customary rights to land and their livelihood system      

South Africa Shadow Report

Additionally a shadow report was produced in connection with the South Africa report with a focus on the issue of indigenous peoples’ rights. The conclusions and recommendations of this shadow report included in summary:

  • Amending the community criteria for recognition of Khoi-San communities to take a more „restorative approach‟ by using the Status Quo report vetted communities as the guiding standard for identifying and recognizing these historical communities.
  • Including the Khoi and San indigenous languages as official languages. As well as formally supporting the community initiatives to promote, teach and preserve the languages such as N!UU language and Khoekhoegoewab.
  • Work through the Status Quo vetted communities represented through the National Khoi & San Council to consult on the historical land concerns of the Khoi-San through the development of the Exceptions policy framework.
  • Speeding up the implementation of the returning of Robberg sacred land to the Griqua/Khoi-San communities.
  • That SA initiates an assessment of the extent of compliance with the recommendations made by former UN Special Rapporteur Rodolfo Stavenhagen on his Mission to South Africa during 2005.

New Report on Extractive industries adopted

Many of the human rights abuses committed against indigenous peoples in Africa are directly related to the extraction of natural resources on their traditional lands and territories.

A major point of interest for indigenous peoples during the ACHPR 58th session was therefore the adoption of a report on the impact of extractive industries in Africa within the context on the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The report, "Extractive Industries, Land Rights and Indigenous Communities’/Populations’ Rights (East, Central and Southern Africa)", prepared by the ACHPR's Working Group on indigenous populations/communities paints a troubled picture of the situation of indigenous peoples in Africa and highlights the alarming role of extractive industries in unconstitutional land grabbing and violation of fundamental human rights, often with the complicit support of national governments.  

"..not only are the governments of Africa, and the companies they furnish with access, entirely to blame for the violations carried out against the indigenous populations of Africa but (...) even more worryingly, the national, regional and international community's ability to defend the rights of those suffering the worst of these violations is ineffective at best", the report concludes. 

The report was adopted with some minor corections which are now being incorporated. The report is expected to be made public no later than august 2016. 



Read more about the 58th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights