UNPO Welcomes 5 New Members!
During the opening plenary of the XV General Assembly of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization last weekend, UNPO had the enormous pleasure to welcome five new members to organisation: the Government of Guam; the Catalan National Assembly (ANC); the Yoruba World Congress; the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra/Biafra Independence Movement (BIM-MASSOB); and the Movement for the Survival of the River Races of Zambesia.
The welcome addition brings the total number of active UNPO members to 44, representing over 300 million people around the world. These new members, moreover, represent some of the most well-known present and historical issues around decolonization, indigenous rights and self-determination. During the event, each new member was given the opportunity to present themselves to other members in a fruitful exchange of knowledge and awareness. They discussed their histories and the most pressing issues they face today.
First up was the representative from the ANC, Elisenda Paluzie, who discussed the role of the ANC in promoting Catalonia’s right to self-determination and how their organisation has effectively brought together hundreds of thousands of Catalans, initially to organise mass gatherings (to which up to 1 million people have come in the past) across Catalonia. Moreover, as the most influential civil society organisation in Catalonia, the ANC’s role is as a non-partisan political pressure group, bringing together politicians and influential people in support of the cause of Catalan independence. In terms of the future direction of the ANC, the representative noted that the future independence referendum in Catalonia must be based on a non-violent movement and their priority is to lay the groundwork for independence by securing as much support as possible, both nationally and internationally. As such, UNPO membership for the ANC means creating ties of solidarity with self-determination movements around the world.
The second new member was introduced by te Speaker of the 35th Guam Legislature, Tina Rose Muña Barnes. According to her, UNPO membership for Guam involved resolving persisting colonial injustices that Guam faces due to being an American territory. In particular, the people of Guam do not enjoy the same rights as US states in that they cannot vote in federal elections are they are not represented in the US Senate. They also do not enjoy the same right to healthcare as mainland Americans. Moreover, many people in Guam serve in the US armed forces, yet do not enjoy the same rights granted to American citizens. In this regard, the Speaker noted that the US is failing to live up to the principles outlined in the UN Charter, namely the right to self-governance. Having exhausted all domestic remedies, the government of Guam has turned to the UNPO for help to further its cause for statehood at the UN, although they often face opposition from the US at the UN.
Yoruba World Congress
The Yoruba people of Nigeria have good reason for seeking UNPO membership. Having historically been colonised by Great Britain, the Yoruba people were forced into the newly constructed state of Nigeria in thelate 1950s. Since Nigeria became independent, the Yoruba people have suffered under a military dictatorship until 1999, when Nigeria transitioned into a democracy. However, the government is controlled fundamentally by the peoples of Northern Nigeria. As such, poor economic management, corruption, and the imposition of religion by the North have all had negative consequences for the Yoruba, who feel unrepresented in Nigeria and have been forced to seek their own self-determination by creating their own independent state.
The poor economic management has led to a culture of crime, forcing many to flee to other parts of Africa and to Europe, which is a perilous journey through the Sahara Desert. More recently, frequent incursions into Yoruba territory by the Fulani tribes of northern Nigeria have brought untold pain, misery and destruction to Yoruba towns and villages, which has also led to a massive influx of people into Yorubaland from other parts of Nigeria, creating a significant economic burden. Many fear the whole region will implode in on itself. As such, the Yoruba World Congress has stepped forward to motivate the Yoruba people and prepare the way for accomplishing self-determination and prosperity, which has led them to seek UNPO membership. They are committed to achieving their goal of self-determination peacefully.
The Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra/Biafra Independence Movement (BIM-MASSOB) is also the representative of a people from Nigeria seeking their own self-determination. After severe ethnic violence during the 1950s, the Biafra have been unsuccessful in achieving their own independent state. Ever since, like the Yoruba people, they have suffered at the hands of the Nigerian government and incursions by Northern Nigerian tribes. However, similar to the Yoruba people, the BIM-MASSOB is committed to non-violence and, through UNPO membership, hope to join the rest of the world as an independent nation.
The River Races of Zambesia
Like many other UNPO members, the peoples of Zambesia find themselves in an unfortunate situation due to historical colonial issues. Having been subjugated by colonial European powers during the “Scramble for Africa”, the land of the peoples of Zambesia was carved up by various powers and now find themselves spread across a very large area in a number of countries. While having never been a “colony” per se, the Zambesi peoples were for a long time under the British sphere of influence. As such, they were never able to develop their own institutions, courts, parliament or even railways. As a result, the very identity of the Zambesi peoples remains obscure and their culture is slowly being eradicated. With UNPO membership, the Movement for the Survival of the River Races of Zambesia want their fundamental human rights to be guaranteed and for them to be able to participate on the world stage.
UNPO Celebrates its New Members
It is with great pleasure that the UNPO welcomes these peoples to our organisation and we look forward with excitement and hope that our work with these organisations will be fruitful and productive. As with all UNPO members around the world, the fundamental right of self-determination is being denied to these peoples and great injustices are being committed against them. Their membership marks a new chapter in their respective struggles for self-determination and to achieve the full attainment of their most basic human rights.