The San, the Himba and their related groups constitute the indigenous peoples of Angola. Although the government of Angola has adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the San, the Himba and other indigenous peoples continue to face challenges in terms of lack of social and economic inclusion, and a number of core human rights remain unrealised to them.
Angola voted in favour of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on 13 September 2007.
In 1976, the Government of Angola ratified the Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention of 1957 (ILO 107). However, the last information presented to the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) was in 2010.
The Government of Angola does not recognise the concept of indigenous peoples as affirmed in international law, and there are no specific references to indigenous peoples or minorities in the Constitution, nor in other domestic law. Thus, a number of core human rights remain unrealised to the country’s indigenous peoples.
The San, the Himba and related indigenous groups
The indigenous peoples of Angola include the San and the Himba and potentially other Khoe-san descendent groups, such as the Kwisi, the Kwepe, and those with similarities to the Himba, such as the Kuvale and the Zemba. Together they number around 25,000 peoples, or 0.1 per cent of Angola’s estimated population of 25 million peoples.
The San, the Himba and related indigenous groups are situated mainly in Angola’s southern provinces of Huila, Cunene, Kuando Kubango and Moxico. While most data on the language of the Khoe-san or Khoe-san descendent groups is outdated, it is known that the language of the Himba, the Kuvale and the Zemba is Herero.
Main challenges for the San, the Himba and other indigenous groups
One challenge for Angola’s indigenous peoples is Angola’s economic downturn. 2016 saw a reduction in funding of smaller NGOs working with indigenous peoples, and some closed as a result.
Another challenge relates to land expropriations. During 2016, several land expropriations for tourism development, commercial logging, and national projects affected indigenous peoples’ settlements.
A group of 18 NGOs forming a human rights monitoring platform in Angola sent a petition to the President, National Assembly and Attorney General denouncing the expropriations.
Another major challenge for the indigenous peoples of Angola is the drought during 2016, which has seriously affected all rural communities in southern Angola.
Information on the challenges facing the Himba, the Kuvale and the Zemba is scarce, but include land tenure and access to services and natural resources, as also seen in Namibia with these cross-border groups.
In previous years, the Himba and the Zemba communities’ have protested over loss of territory, issues of ancestral graves, loss of livelihoods, and compensation.
Also, local organisations in Angola continue to highlight the lack of social and economic inclusion of the San, the expropriation of their land, and their discriminatory labour and social relationships with neighbouring groups.
In general, the San peoples appear to have subordinate socio-economic standing in relation to neighbouring non-San groups.
Progress in support to the San peoples
In 2016, the Ministry of Assistance and Social Reintegration carried out various projects with San communities, mostly focused on agricultural training, but also on aspects of education, housing and policy development.
A number of civil society organisations continue to provide support to Angola’s indigenous peoples. In 2016, various programmes targeting San groups, such as civil registration, agricultural training and promotion of cultural, social and economic rights, were implemented alongside workshops and meetings with local authorities and civil society networks.
Case: Public recognition of the San
The San have some public recognition on a national level. In 2016, the national broadcaster TPA showed at least 13 short news segments related to government projects with San communities. Also, a TPA broadcast journalist wrote a short book on the San in Angola in 2015. However, it is not available outside the country, nor in English translation.