Namibia has signed several international agreements upholding human and indigenous rights, including the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and voted for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2007.
Furthermore, our Constitution forbids discrimination and encourages the state to help the advancement of marginalized and disadvantaged communities.
The adoption of these comprehensive legal frameworks, ipso facto, compels Namibia to observe important world events such as the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (IDWIP) which is observed globally on August 9 each year to promote and protect the rights of the world’s indigenous population.
The observance is important to further provoke debate of the current resettlement model and seek amicable solutions to the hot ancestral land issue, promote self-determination and political representation, and take stock of progress on recommendations emanating from national programmes, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, United Nations Human Rights Council and various Universal Periodic Reviews, and perhaps also to interrogate the application of each provision under the UNDRIP.
I want to believe that I will not be the only one who is wondering about the recommendations made by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, in 2013. A platform like this could provide a good opportunity for the country to provide feedback on matters raised in such reports. Any progress on the White Paper on the rights of Indigenous Peoples (IPs) in Namibia? What is the government position on the ratification of ILO Convention No. 169?
For a diverse country like Namibia, this day can further be turned into a melting pot of culture coupled with launches of research papers and public lectures in the spirit of Harambee (just to rally behind the national call for an inclusive Namibian House where no one is left out). It can also be a good opportunity for government to sensitize the public and the world at large about its programmes and activities relating to indigenous people.
It is almost 10 years since the adoption of the UNDRIP (from 2007 to 2017) that Namibia has not observed this significant obligation as a UN member state. The 9th of August has passed again. This is really questionable and might be misconstrued by the world as an indication of Namibia’s commitment on issues of indigenous people. Interestingly, neither of us – be it civil society, human rights organizations and activists, government or the presidency – made a single mention about the IP Day on 9 August.
I will not be the right person to answer why the IP Day is not observed in Namibia. However, it raises eyebrows and perhaps it is something that the Office of the President, the UNCHR and civil organizations can look into for next year. I assume many (including me) would humbly be willing to join this discourse for a good cause.
* Rhingo Mutambo is a cultural activist, communication practitioner and author of the book: Wrongly Framed on Culture, HIV/AIDS and Sexuality. Views expressed in this article are his own, not those of his employer.