Indigenous groups come together to strengthen rights

Paul Kiprono
Paul Kiprono, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Officer, ILC Africa
Monday, May 6, 2019

A win for Indigenous peoples in Kenya is a booster for Indigenous groups across the African continent. See how Indigenous Peoples are organising to protect their community rights.

“I hope that the government will recognise the San People as Indigenous and accord them the rights enshrined in the United Nations declaration on the rights of Indigenous people,” says Keikabile Mogodu, Executive Director of the Botswana Khwedom Council (BKC), a new member of the International Land Coalition.

BKC's struggle for the San People’s recognition did not begin today. For several years, it invaded national and international platforms making the case for their recognition. But they are not alone in their fight for recognition. Indigenous groups all over Africa have been struggling for decades to gain recognition. A key example is the Ogiek Indigenous Peoples whose over a century battle to preserve their community lands ended in 2017, with the landmark victory over the government of Kenya at the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights.

Securing territorial rights for Indigenous Peoples is a key priority area set out in ILC Africa’s strategy. To promote cross learning and sharing among Indigenous groups, ILC Africa members organised a five-day workshop on March 18-23 in Botswana.  The meeting brought together 32 people, representing Indigenous voices in Central, Eastern and Southern Africa. While the Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association (MBOSCUDA), from Cameroon spoke for Indigenous groups in Central Africa, the Ogiek Peoples’ Development Programme (OPDP), from Kenya, the Ujamaa Community Resource Team (UCRT) from Tanzania and Unissons-nous pour la Promotion des Batwa (UNIPROBA), from Burundi represented indigenous peoples of Eastern Africa.

BKC, the host of the event, was the only Southern African Indigenous organisation.The African Commission of Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) also took part in the discussions as a special guest.

The workshop started with radio talk-shows. BKC organised radio talks with senior government officials as panellists, which discussed Indigenous land rights. This event put the Indigenous land rights issue on top of the media agenda in Botswana.  The San Peoples, whose issues hitherto featured on mainstream media became suddenly popular in the public sphere. Many people from various regions in Botswana contributed to the talk shows and stressed on the need to recognise the land rights of the San Peoples. For example, audiences talked of future dialogues around the country’s land policy.

The meeting continued with Indigenous groups sharing strategies and experiences around their struggles for community land rights. OPDP and MBOSCUDA shared key tricks on how to win a land rights struggle. While OPDP talked about its legal battles, MBOSCUDA expanded on how to nudge public policy for recognition.

A key outcome of the event is a strategy set by the parties to secure indigenous rights across the continent and to promote their cultures. For the San Peoples, a clear advocacy map was drawn.