- By Rebecca Sommer
Hundreds of semi-nomadic Himba from Omuhonga and Epupa region marched today from their villages to Okanguati, a small town about 120 km away from Opuwo, to protest against Namibia’s human rights violations against them.
These violations, documented and signed by the Himba chiefs of the entire Himba territory (Kaokoland) in two historic Declarations have been submitted by Earth Peoples to the United Nations on February 23rd in 2012.
The Himba from Epupa and Omuhonga also wrote an invitation letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was also forwarded by Earth Peoples to the UN system at the same day.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, James Anaya, visited the Himba in September 2012, where a Himba spokesperson read aloud the Himba Declaration once again to him. You can read the UN Special Rapporteur’s statement here.
“We invited Namibian Broadcasting Cooperation (NBC) to come, but they refused to attend our protest manifestation” said Motjimbika Mutambo, a respected community leader from Himba village Omuhonga.“We handed our petition and demands to our elected Epupa Regional Councillor, the Honorable Muharukua, with the expectation that he will forward it to the President” Mutambo added.
“We don’t understand why we have to repeat ourselves over and over again, and the Government of Namibia is not listening to us, and is continuing to push for the construction of the dam in the Baynes Mountains without our consent. We collectively refused the money offered to our communities and families that would have to relocate” said Hikuminae Kapika, the Chief from the area of Epupa and Omuhonga.
“We have these big mining companies making holes in our land, making roads where we graze our herds, and we don’t want that. We don’t know what they are digging out, we have no idea what they do to our water and land, and we don’t want them here. Nobody asked us for our permission.” He added.
“If the government is going to build the dam they better kill us first before they do that. This is our land. We are the original inhabitants and true owners. But since independence, the Government of Namibia has dispossessed us from our rights to our land, and our rights to decide what is being done with and on it.” Said Muhapika Munjombara.
Members of the indigenous peoples Zemba also attended the protest march. They also submitted through Earth Peoples their Human Rights violation Declaration to the United Nations.
In the Zemba Declaration, it is stated:
In the past our appointed leaders had to belong to the royal house, but that has changed over the time. Today, we elect our leaders. But to our great grievance, Namibia denies us not only our rightful place as legitimate Namibian citizens, with untrue claims that we are refugees from Angola, but also denies us our right to our land, and to choose our own representatives and leaders.
We demand that we get our right to choose our own representatives and leaders, and to be allowed to administer our internal affairs, including our territory and land, and to rule our affairs with our own customary laws and traditional courts.
We demand that the Government of Namibia recognizes without delay our chief as the legally recognized Zemba Traditional Authority.