Alternative report to the Initial report of the Republic of Uganda to be presented at the 55th session of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: 1st – 19th June 2015
On 8th February 2013, the Batwa of Uganda submitted a petition to the Constitutional Court of Uganda seeking recognition of their status as indigenous peoples under international law and redress for the historic marginalisation and continuous human rights violations they have experienced as a result of being dispossessed of their ancestral forest lands by the government.
Before their eviction, the Batwa had lived in the forest since immemorial times. The measures taken to remove the Batwa, to create ‘environmentally protected’ areas, and to limit access and use of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Echuya Central Forest Reserve, resulted in the violation of the Batwa’s property rights over their ancestral lands. While colonial protection of the forest started in the 1920s, most Batwa continued to live in the forest and to use its resources until the 1990s; when they were evicted, without consultation, adequate compensation or offer of alternative land.
What are the prospects for securing the land rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, and women in the foreseeable future?
Significantly, the report of the United Nations Secretary-General’s High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, under Goal 1 to “End Poverty”, sets a target to “Increase by x% the share of women and men, communities, and businesses with secure rights to land, property, and other assets”.
Mutual recognition, mutual respect and mutual benefit are among the desirable attributes of all human relationships. Indigenous peoples and other forest peoples also expect these qualities in their relationships with others – be they governments, private corporations, NGOs or other indigenous peoples’ organisations and communities. This issue of Forest Peoples Programme’s E-Newsletter reports on the state of various relationships between forest peoples and different institutions – as these are forged, tested or broken –in the course of assertions for upholding basic human rights, social justice and solidarity.
A gender workshop organised in Kisoro, south-western Uganda, from the 19-21 November 2012 that aimed to initiate indigenous people in general aspects of gender, has ended successfully.
The workshop was facilitated by the United Organisation for Batwa Development in Uganda (UOBDU) and Forest Peoples Programme and hosted fifty Batwa men and women from the districts of Kanungu, Mbarara, Kabale and Kisoro. Youngsters aged 14 - 20 also attended the workshop.
The importance of ensuring respect for the rights of forest peoples’ to control their forests, lands and livelihoods, becomes ever clearer and yet more contested. As the articles in this edition of our newsletter starkly reveal, land and resource grabs are not just being imposed by commercial developers but are being actively promoted by governments, whose principle responsibility should be to protect the rights of citizens. Yet these same impositions are also being resisted, sometimes at great personal cost, by local communities and indigenous peoples.
Uganda's first Participatory Three-Dimensional Modelling Project was organised in 2011 in Kisoro by the Batwa, former hunter-gatherers who were evicted from two national parks 20 years ago. Watch the video here.
In 2009 a group of Batwa representatives from Uganda travelled to Ogiek communities in Kenya to learn about their situation and the different advocacy strategies they were using. One of these strategies was the use of Participatory 3-Dimensional Modelling (P3DM), which helped the Ogiek engage Kenyan agencies on their rights to their ancestral territory, the Mau Forest. The Batwa walked away from this visit impressed by the simplicity of the P3DM technique and hopeful of replicating it in their own context.
Two years later in June 2011, the Batwa, with support from the ARCUS Foundation, began their own three-dimensional modelling of their ancestral territory, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. More than 100 representatives from the Batwa communities surrounding Bwindi, including youth, elders, women and men attended the exercise over a three-week period.
The land rights of indigenous peoples and human rights of minority communities were discussed in Kampala, Uganda on 4th March 2011 during the first East Africa Regional Dialogue on Minority Community Rights. The event came as a result of the collaboration of many national and international organisations including the United Organisation for Batwa Development in Uganda, Forest Peoples Programme, Minority Rights Group International, Institute for Law & Environmental Governance, Uganda Land Alliance and Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment. The dialogue was attended by representatives of indigenous peoples and minority communities from throughout the East African region as well as government and civil society organisations from Uganda and Kenya. Honoured guests included the Minister of State for Gender and Culture from Uganda and the Chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission, former Commissioner of the African Commission Bahame Tom Nyanduga, representatives from the African Commission’s Working Group of Experts on Indigenous Populations/Communities, as well as indigenous leaders from Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Kenya and Tanzania.
Paragraphs 39-40 contain recommendations towards the rights of Batwa women.
The Batwa of south-west Uganda, through their organisation, the United Organisation for Batwa Development (UOBDU), officially opened their new joint tourism venture with the Uganda Wildlife Authority on July 1st, 2010. A related news article “Trail of hope for Uganda's lost Pygmy tribe” in The Guardian, 17 July, 2010, notes that “...for the first time, the Batwa have a stake in the conservation and management of the national park, even though they still live outside it.” Click here to read the full Guardian article.
In December 2009, the Batwa community in south-west Uganda and their own representative organisation, the United Organisation of Batwa Development in Uganda (UOBDU), continued their efforts to secure their rights by holding a series of meetings with local and national level government representatives.
Submitted by United Organisation for Batwa Development in Uganda (UOBDU) and Forest Peoples Programme (FPP)
Provides information on the situation of the indigenous Batwa people of Uganda and comments on Uganda's First Periodic Report to the Commission
Commissioner Soyata Maiga, Special Rapporteur on Women's Rights in Africa, heard directly from indigenous women about the difficulties that they and their communities face, at a special event held at the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.
Nadine Mballa, CED, Cameroon
Why have you decided to attend the African Commission? I came here because FPP gave me the opportunity. I am working on the indigenous issue and the African Commission allows NGO representatives to speak on human rights issues. I am here to try to bring awareness of violations of indigenous peoples' rights in my country.