As in many other parts of the world, the indigenous peoples of Africa are increasingly being dispossessed of their ancestral lands. It started during colonial times where many of them lost their land to European settlers. It continues today where conservation interests, commercial plantations, mineral exploitations, and other economic activities are leading to encroachments, expropriations and forced removals.
Indigenous peoples have not let this happen without reacting and in some cases they have gone to court, challenging those who threatened them — colonial authorities, governments or corporate companies.
But defending the land rights of indigenous peoples in court has been an uphill battle with few successes. Why? What went wrong? What could have been done otherwise? The purpose of this book has been to analyze some of the land cases filed by indigenous peoples in selected African countries, in order to see how the judiciary has dealt with this human rights thematic, and what lessons can be learned from these court cases. What should judges, lawyers and concerned people know about indigenous land rights? What legal frameworks should they refer to in order to better defend these rights in African courts? What international instruments could possibly be relevant to bring up in court? What global and regional mechanisms could providesome support and help? These are some of the key questions which this book aims at answering.
Albert Kwoko Barume
is an African trained lawyer and has a doctorate in international human rights law from the University of Essex, United Kingdom. For many years, his focus has been on indigenous peoples, and the present book stems from more than fifteen years of observations, research, analysis and interaction with indigenous communities in Africa. He has written on and advocated for indigenous rights in several international and regional fora and in 2007 he became member of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Expert Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities. He is the author of several articles and books, including the book Heading Towards Extinction? Indigenous Rights in Africa: The Case of the Twa of the Kahuzi-Biega National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo (IWGIA 2000) and lately the chapter “Responding to the Concerns of the African States”, in Making the Declaration Work: The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, edited by Claire Charters and Rodolfo Stavenhagen. (IWGIA, 2009).