The indigenous peoples of Uganda include the Benet, the Batwa, the Ik, the Karamojong and the Basongora, although the Ugandan Government does not specifically recognize them as indigenous peoples.
Uganda has not adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, ILO Convention 169, which guarantees the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples in independent States. Therefore, its indigenous population continues to live with impoverishment, social and political exploitation and marginalization.
The 1995 Constitution does not offer express protection for indigenous peoples, but Article 32 imposes a mandatory duty on the state to take affirmative measures in favour of historically disadvantaged and discriminated groups.
This provision, which was initially designed and conceived to address the historical disadvantages of children, persons with disabilities and women, is the basic legal source of affirmative action in favour of indigenous peoples in Uganda.
The Land Law of 1998 and the National Environmental Statute of 1995 protect customary interests in land and traditional uses of forests. However, these laws also authorize the government to exclude human activities in any forest area by declaring it a protected forest, thus nullifying the customary rights to the land of indigenous peoples.
Indigenous peoples in Uganda
The indigenous peoples of Uganda include ancient communities of hunters and gatherers, such as Benet and Batwa, also known as Twa. They also include minority groups like the Ik, the Karamojong and the Basongora.
The Benets, who number just over 8,500, live in the northeastern part of Uganda. The Batwa, who number about 6,700, live mainly in the southwest region. They were dispossessed of their ancestral land when the Bwindi and Mgahinga forests were declared national parks in 1991.
The Ik number is approximately 13,939 and lives on the edge of the Karamoja / Turkana region along the border between Uganda and Kenya. The karamojong live in the northeast and total about 988,429. The Basongoras, who number 15,897, are a livestock community that lives in the lowlands adjacent to Rwenzori Mountain in western Uganda.
Main challenges for the indigenous peoples of Uganda
The indigenous peoples of Uganda experience challenges, especially in relation to the lack of security in land tenure and marginalization in terms of political representation. They have experienced the indigence and historical injustices induced by the state caused by the creation of conservation areas in Uganda.
They have also suffered various human rights violations, including continued forced evictions and exclusion of ancestral lands without consultation with the community, consent or adequate compensation, violence and destruction of homes and property, including the denial of livestock of their livelihoods and their livelihoods. cultural and religious values, exclusion of ancestral lands and natural resources. As a result, they continue to live with impoverishment, social and political exploitation and marginalization.
The safety of the Ik peoples is at risk in large part due to their different positions between two communities. Iks are often caught in the crossfire between the two communities, making them very vulnerable. In addition, their land tenure remains insecure because neighbouring pastoralists and agropastoralists invade their land. In addition, 70% of the land of Ik has been lost due to conservation initiatives.
The Benet peoples have had a long-standing dispute with the authorities over their ancestral lands, which was declared a protected area in 1926 without their consent or compensation. In 2005, the Supreme Court ordered the government to return the protected lands to the community of Benet. However, the failure has not yet been implemented.
Positive trends for the Ik, Benet, Basongora and Batwa peoples
The Ik have been largely excluded from the decision-making processes at both the local and central levels, but in 2015, the government created the Ik constituency and, in February 2016, Hillary Lokwang was elected as the first member of Parliament Ik.
For once, the Ik can hear their voices directly and not through their Dodoth neighbours. In fact, his current member of parliament is his first and only surviving university graduate, since the other died. Hope is placed in the new and young member of Parliament in terms of lobbying for the development of Ik people.
The United Organization for Batwa Development in Uganda (UOBDU) has been implementing the project entitled "Giving Hope to Batwa Women and Girls" where two Batwa representatives of 43 Batwa groups or communities were selected and trained as Women Defenders of Rights.