Independence? What Independence? Indigenous People Want to Know
Colombia in focus ⬿

Independence? What Independence? Indigenous People Want to Know

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John Ahni Schertow
July 24, 2007
 

Just a few days ago, Colombia celebrated 197 years of independence from Spain. And Yesterday, at dawn, some 5,000 indigenous people set off on an 800-kilometre journey to ask the government, “what independence?”

From IPS News – “We’re going to the national Congress to make it known that we do not agree with laws they’ve passed that seriously jeopardise national sovereignty and the autonomy of indigenous peoples,” Feliciano Valencia, an indigenous leader, told IPS.

Nasa (or Páez) and Guambian people started their journey in Santander de Quilichao, 100 km north of Popayán, the capital of the south-western department of Cauca.

The rights of indigenous ethnic groups to manage and control their ancestral lands, now designated reserves, and to self-government within them, are enshrined in Colombia’s Constitution. However, they are being threatened by laws and bills before Congress on the environment, land use and rural development, indigenous people say.

They are making their way on foot through the towns and villages on the route, but most of the journey is by bus. At every stop, they talk to local residents, seeking their opinions about current economic and human rights issues.

The planned route takes in departmental capitals like Popayán and Cali, in the western Andes mountains, and Armenia and Ibagué, in the central mountains, arriving in Bogotá, 2,600 metres above sea level in the eastern Andes, on Thursday.

“We want to tell the world that the Colombian government doesn’t provide the conditions for Colombians to live together in harmony, and we want to call into question the laws approved by the national Congress which hurt the rural sector,” Valencia said. Read the Full Article

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