Game parks threaten Africa’s indigenous people: UN

Game parks threaten Africa’s indigenous people: UN

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March 21, 2007

Game parks threaten Africa’s indigenous people: UN
By Laura MacInnis,
March 20,2007

GENEVA (Reuters) – Indigenous communities in Africa are “on the brink of destruction” due to the expansion of national game parks and insufficient law enforcement, a United Nations expert said on Tuesday.

Rodolfo Stavenhagen, a special rapporteur on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, said reserves in countries such as Kenya and Botswana had disrupted hunter-gatherer and pastoralist populations, such as the Maasai.

Many of the countries have enacted laws formally entrenching the rights of indigenous populations in maintaining their lifestyles and culture, but their governments have done little to uphold them, he told journalists in Geneva.

“(Indigenous) communities are on the brink of destruction, of dispersal,” Stavenhagen said. “Not enough is being done to protect their rights.”

Such populations have also come under pressure in Cambodia, Thailand, the Philippines and large swathes of Latin America as a result of the expansion of mining, oil exploration and other extractive activities, Stavenhagen said.

There are about a quarter of a billion indigenous people. They make up some four percent of the world’s population, but their numbers are shrinking as many assimilate into popular culture.

The Mexican sociologist said he feared commercial and political pressures, including attempts by some governments to block indigenous land-rights claims, were “weakening these communities to such an extent that they can no longer survive.”

He cited reports from Chile, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico that said government forces were applying anti-terrorism laws that would allow leaders of indigenous groups seeking to make claims on the state to be detained.

“Anti-terrorist legislation provides some countries with an alibi to persecute,” he said, citing recent arrests of Mapuche tribal leaders in Chile.

Indigenous communities along the Colombia-Ecuador border have also suffered health problems and struggle to find food because of fumigation operations against illegal drugs, he said.


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