• Namibia

    Namibia

    The indigenous peoples of Namibia include the San, the Nama, the Ovahimba, the Ovazemba, the Ovatjimba, the Ovatwa, and their sub-groups.
    While the Constitution of Namibia prohibits discrimination on the grounds of ethnic or tribal affiliation, it does not specifically recognise the rights of indigenous peoples or minorities, and there is no national legislation dealing directly with indigenous peoples.
  • Peoples

    8 per cent of Namibia's population is indigenous peoples.
    27,000 to 34,000 persons belong to the San peoples, while 25,000 persons belong to the Ovahimba peoples, and 100,000 persons belong to the Nama peoples
  • Rights

    Namibia adopts the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007.

Namibia

The indigenous peoples of Namibia include San, Nama, Ovahimba, Ovazemba, Ovatjimba, Ovatwa and their subgroups. Although the Constitution of Namibia prohibits discrimination on grounds of ethnic or tribal affiliation, it does not specifically recognize the rights of indigenous peoples or minorities, and there is no national legislation that deals directly with indigenous peoples.

Namibia voted in favour of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) on September 13, 2007, but has not ratified ILO Convention 169, an international legal instrument that specifically addresses the rights of indigenous peoples. indigenous and tribal peoples.

Namibia is a signatory to several other binding international agreements that affirm the norms represented in UNDRIP, such as the African Charter on Human and People's Rights (ACHPR), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the International Convention on the Elimination of of all forms of racial discrimination (ICERD) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The indigenous peoples of Namibia

The indigenous peoples of Namibia include San, Nama, Ovahimba, Ovazemba, Ovatjimba and Ovatwa. Together they represent around 8% of the total population of the country, being 2,484,780.

The San are Bushmen and their number ranges between 27,000 and 34,000 or between 1.3% and 1.6% of the national population. They include the Khwe, the Hai || om, the Ju | 'hoansi, the! Kung, subgroups ǂKao || Aesi, Naro and! Xóõ. Each of the San subgroups speaks their own language and has different customs, traditions and histories.

The San were mainly hunter-gatherers in the past but, today, many have diversified livelihoods. More than 80% of the San have been dispossessed of their ancestral lands and resources, and now they are some of the poorest and most marginalized people in the country.

The Ovahimba number about 25,000. They are pastoral peoples and reside mainly in the semi-arid region of northwest Kunene. The communities of Ovazemba, Ovatjimba, Ovazemba and Ovatwa live very close to the Himba in the mountains of northwest Namibia. The Nama, a Khoe-speaking group, number about 100,000 and live mainly in central and southern Namibia.

Challenges for indigenous peoples in Namibia

The year 2016 was marked by a significant slowdown in the economy of Namibia, which resulted in considerable budget cuts for many line ministries, including those that support indigenous peoples.

It is expected that the effect of these cuts will affect geographically remote communities to a greater extent, due to reductions in operational scope.

Advances in participation and political representation of the indigenous peoples of Namibia

In March 2015, the San Development Division under the Office of the Prime Minister was renamed the Division of Marginalized Communities and moved to the Office of the Vice President. The office is mandated to focus on San, Himba, Tjimba, Zemba and Twa, with the main objective of integrating marginalized communities into the mainstream of the economy and improving their livelihoods.

The representatives of the Division of Marginalized Communities in the Office of the Vice President and the Vice Minister of Marginalized Communities, Kxao Royal Ui | or | oo, who is the only San in the national government, encountered many of the marginalized communities in Namibia during 2016.

The Division participated in the 15th annual meeting of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (FPCIU) in New York from 9 to 20 May 2016. The Division of Marginalized Communities accepted a work program with the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations.

Social Affairs to promote the rights of indigenous peoples in Namibia and, specifically, to assist in the adoption of the White Paper on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Namibia, drafted by the Office of the Ombudsman of Namibia in 2014.

Reconciliation between Germany and Namibia: towards reparation of the first genocide of the 20th century

BY ROBERTO HITCHCOCK AND MELINDA KELLY FOR DEBATES INDÍGENAS

The wounds inflicted by the great massacre of 60,000 Herero and 10,000 Namas in the former colony of Southwest Africa have yet to heal. Added to the concentration camps and slave labor, are the scars from the exhibition of human remains in museums and the manipulation for racist scientific theories. After a century of denial, the governments of both countries agreed to compensation of 1.1 billion euros over a period of 30 years. However, the descendants of the victims do not feel that their demands are heard. 

Photo: Ullstein Bild / Getty Images

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Indigenous World 2019: Namibia

The indigenous peoples of Namibia include the San, the Ovatue and Ovatjimba, and potentially a number of other peoples including the Ovahimba and Nama. Taken together, the indigenous peoples of Namibia represent some 8% of the total population of the country which was 2,533,244 in 2018. The San (Bushmen) number between 27,000 and 34,000, and represent between 1.06% and 1.3% of the national population.

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The Indigenous World 2021: Namibia

The Indigenous Peoples of Namibia include the San, the Ovatjimba, Ovatue and Ovahimba, and potentially a number of other peoples, including the Damara (ǂNūkhoen) and Nama. Taken together, these Indigenous Peoples represent some 8% of the total population of the country, which was 2,630,073 in 2020. The San (Bushmen) number between 28,000 and 35,000, and they represent slightly more than 1% of the national population. They include the Khwe, the Hai||om, the Ju|’hoansi (and related ‡Kao||'aesi), the !Xun (comprising of four or more distinct populations), the Naro and the !Xóõ (and related N|oha). Each of the San groups speaks its own language and has distinct customs, traditions and histories. The San were mainly hunter-gatherers in the past but, today, many have diversified livelihoods. Over 80% of the San have been dispossessed of their ancestral lands and resources, and they are now some of the poorest and most marginalised peoples in the country. The Ovatjimba and Ovatue (Ovatwa) are largely pastoral people, formerly also relying on hunting and gathering, residing in the Kunene Region, in the semi-arid and mountainous north-west of Namibia. Together, they number some 27,000, representing 1.02% of the total Namibia population.

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Indigenous World 2020: Namibia

The Indigenous Peoples of Namibia include the San, the Ovatue and Ovatjimba, and potentially a number of other peoples including the Damara and Nama. Taken together, the Indigenous Peoples of Namibia represent some 8% of the total population of the country which was 2,533,244 in 2019. The San (Bushmen) number between 27,000 and 34,000, and represent between 1.06% and 1.3% of the national population. They include the Khwe, the Hai||om, the Ju|’hoansi, the !Kung, the !Xun, the Kao||Aesi, the Naro, and the !Xóõ. Each of the San groups speaks its own language and has distinct customs, traditions and histories. The San were mainly hunter-gatherers in the past but, today, many have diversified livelihoods.

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IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights. Read more.

Indigenous World

IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for indigenous peoples worldwide. Read The Indigenous World.

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