Aug 20, 2012

Batwa: African Commission Demands Return Of Ancestral Lands

The African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights asked the Rwandan government to return land that was taken away from indigenous peoples without compensation.

Below is an article published by NewVision:


The government has been asked to return portions of national parks to indigenous communities like the Batwa, evicted following the gazetting of such land into protected areas.


The African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights report provides findings, analysis, conclusions and recommendation on how to improve the human rights situation of indigenous communities in Uganda. The report documents the human rights situation of the Batwa and Karimojong communities.


The report identifies indigenous groups in Uganda as those communities which are nomadic or semi-nomadic hunter gatherers or pastoralists such as the Batwa, Benet and the Karimojong.


It observes that the Batwa and the Benet have been made landless and poor ever since they were forcefully evicted from the protected areas such Bwindi-Mgahinga park and in Kapchorwa district.

Also, nomadic pastoral communities such as the Basongora escaped conflicts in Uganda and moved to neighbouring DR Congo and Tanzania. However, they returned to find their former lands taken over. And today, they are landless.


The report published by the Africa Commission Working Group on Indigenous Communities in Uganda was launched recently at Hotel Africana. During the launch, participants also watched a video on the rights of indigenous peoples in Africa.


Tegegn Melakou, the director of PANOS Eastern Africa said, “At global level, there is recognition of the rights of indigenous people. Their culture and way of life differ from dominant communities in society and their way of life is threatened and their survival depends on environment.”


Jolly Kemigabo the Africa regional manager for the NGO Minority Rights Group International, said that minority communities in Uganda such as the Batwa have been rendered landless after their former homes were gazetted by government into a national park.


Penninah Zaninka the coordinator of the United Organisation for Batwa Development in Uganda said the Batwa were never compensated for the loss of their land after eviction.


“They suffer from discrimination which has impacted on the possibility of taking advantage of opportunities they could have. It is a challenge for Batwa to come out of poverty and they are not involved in government programmes,” Zaninka said.