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UN expert praises Congo’s draft law on indigenous rights

UN expert praises Congo’s draft law on indigenous rights

Baaka women and children in a village in Plateaux district, Republic of Congo, discussing an NGO project
An independent United Nations human rights expert today welcomed a draft law in the Republic of Congo intended to recognize and protect the rights of marginalized indigenous communities in the central African country.

“I welcome the development of a bill for a law on indigenous peoples, and am pleased to have heard from Government and parliamentary officials that the bill will very likely be adopted into law during the current session of Parliament, before the end of the year,” said James Anaya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.

“I urge the Government of Congo and the Parliament to ensure enactment of the law without amendments that would weaken its provisions, and to adopt the necessary implementing legislation as soon as possible,” Mr. Anaya said in a statement issued in the country’s capital, Brazzaville, at the end of his 11-day visit.

He said that the draft law will be the first of its kind in Africa when enacted. “It provides an important example of a good practice in the region for the recognition and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples,” he said.

“With its promotion of this legislation, along with its agreement to a National Action Plan to diminish the disadvantaged conditions of non-dominant indigenous groups, the Government of Congo is committing to action that is generally in keeping with international standards in this regard,” he added.

Mr. Anaya, however, deplored the extreme poverty and marginalization in which the country’s indigenous communities, such as the Baaka, Mbendjele, Mikaya, Luma, Gyeli, Twa and Babongo, who are collectively known as ‘Pygmies,’ live.

“The Government should strive to ensure that a deeper awareness of the rights of indigenous peoples is incorporated into a range of government agencies, programmes and initiatives, which would allow for a holistic approach to addressing indigenous disadvantage across the country,” he said.

UN Rapporteurs are tasked with investigating, monitoring and recommending solutions to human rights issues, and report in an independent and unpaid capacity to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council.