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Namibia must address land insecurity of indigenous people – UN expert

Special Rapporteur James Anaya.
UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré
Special Rapporteur James Anaya.

Namibia must address land insecurity of indigenous people – UN expert

Namibia must increase efforts to address the loss of land of indigenous groups and ensure their traditions and customs are preserved without marginalizing them, a United Nations independent expert said today.

In his latest report, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, stressed that the pervasive loss of land and resources by indigenous groups during colonialism and apartheid has not been overcome.

“By all accounts, indigenous San groups in the country have experienced the greatest loss and resultant social, economic and cultural disruption,” he said, adding that San people in Namibia today use and occupy lands under different kinds of arrangements, “none of which are wholly adequate and without problems.”

Mr. Anaya urged Namibia to step up efforts to address land insecurity issues, while respecting the rights of others, in accordance with their historical or traditional land tenure patterns.

He also called on the Government to strengthen measures that ensure indigenous peoples can survive with their cultures intact, including in regard to their traditional land, authorities, and languages.

“[Namibia] is a country rich with diverse indigenous cultural and ethnic identities including those of indigenous peoples that have suffered marginalization in various aspects of life,” he said, adding that the Government must review and reform its relevant laws and policies “to ensure that they do not discriminate against particular indigenous groups, and that they accommodate to and strengthen cultural diversity and adhere to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

In his report, Mr. Anaya also highlights positive developments, including in the areas of health and education. “Since Namibia’s independence in 1990, the Government has made many significant achievements in rolling back some of the destructive legacies left by colonialism and apartheid,” he said.

The report was developed on the basis of research and information gathered, including meetings with Government and indigenous representatives in the capital, Windhoek.

Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back, in an unpaid capacity, on specific human rights themes. Mr. Anaya is scheduled to present his report to the Council in September.