Thursday, December 18, 2008

December 10-16, 2008: Five Key Indigenous Peoples Issues

Five Important Indigenous People's Issues for the Week of December 10 - 16, 2008

Nigeria: Death, Tears, Blood as Days of Rage Envelop Jos

For two days, Jos, the capital of Plateau State, boiled with rage. Like the crisis that erupted in September 7, 2001, the November 29 conflagration that rendered the once peaceful city impotent was not anything different.

It first started like a normal political exercise. A local government election was conducted and the results were being awaited. Instead of the results, what the residents witnessed was burning, killing and looting. And for two days, the city laid prostrate. The result was that after the two-day mayhem, 200 people, going by official figures, lay dead, over 150 cars and an unknown number of houses were burnt to ashes. The home of peace and tourism had acquired a new epithet as thousands of people left the town in droves.

The last time a local government election was held in Jos North was in 1999. Since then, attempts by successive administrations to hold a local government election in the area were frustrated. Former Governor Joshua Dariye avoided the pitfalls of Jos North politics by appointing sole administrators in the area. Reasons given by the dramatis personae in the recent mayhem are varied. While the Hausa/Fulani claimed that the indigenous people were the aggressors, the indigenous people said the Hausa/Fulani were the cause of the crisis. Read more about Nigeria and Jos here....

Philippines: Indigenous Peoples Groups Ask Church Help in Fight for Their Rights

Indigenous people (IP) groups sought the help of the Catholic Church in fighting for their dignity, self-determination and the preservation and conservation of their ancestral lands.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines website said the Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas made the latest such appeal.

"We have become squatters in our own lands. Our communities continue to be militarized, and our brave brothers and sisters, harassed and summarily killed by State armed forces. Our sacred culture is commercialized. We fall prey to unwarranted discrimination. We are denied or neglected of the State's basic services," KAMP spokesman Himpad Mangumalas lamented.

He said indigenous peoples in the Philippines are at "war" to fight for their lands and the recognition for their inalienable rights to self-determination as a people.

Also, he said IPs’ lands are being pillaged with mining and logging of multinational companies, and the aggressive construction of dams on their domains.

Even their culture has not been spared because of commercialization, he said.

He noted one proof of state harassment against the tribal peoples in the Philippines was the case of the missing Kankanaey-Ibaloi tribe leader James Balao.

Balao disappeared last September 17, even as several residents suspect the military was behind the incident. Read more about indigenous rights in the Philippines here....

Colombia: Indigenous Populations March for Growing Rights Infringements

Thousands of indigenous Colombians marched in October and November, a protest hike of more than 500 kilometers from a southwestern corner of the country to Bogota, to call attention to generations of rights abuses against indigenous Colombians.

Protesters said these centuries of rights abuses has not eased in modern times and have even worsened under the government of President Álvaro Uribe.

“Since Uribe came to power, 1,253 indigenous have been killed, and we have 18 groups that are disappearing, among them the Juhup, Yari, Yamalero and Nukak people,” said Sen. Jesús Piñacué, a lawmaker for the Cauca department and a member of the Paez ethnicity, citing figures from the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, or ONIC.

The indigenous marches again highlighted the land problem that ethnic Colombians are living with, an issue that was “maliciously handled by Uribe,” according to Piñacué.

On Oct. 18, Uribe said in a Communal Government Council — joint meetings with community authorities — that the Colombia´s indigenous population, which comprises just over 2 percent of the national population of 44 million people, has 27 percent of the country´s land. Read more about indigenous issues in Colombia here....

Brazil: CAFOD Delighted Court Rules to Protect Indigenous Brazilian's Land

CAFOD has welcomed a ruling by Brazil's Supreme Court to uphold the rights of indigenous people to remain on their ancestral land. The decision was made last night - a momentous day for such a positive outcome as yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of the Brazilian Constitution and the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

For decades, five indigenous peoples have called on the Brazilian government to protect their land, Raposa Serra do Sol, in the state of Roraima, in the north of the country.

The Brazilian President, Luiz Incio Lula da Silva, officially recognized the land as belonging to the Macuxi, Ingaric, Taurepang, Patamona and Wapichana groups in 2005 - but powerful farmers, who occupy a significant part of it, refused to leave the area.

The indigenous communities have been subjected to violence and intimidation from famers for many years, and tensions have increased in recent months.

More than 2,000 CAFOD supporters signed a petition to protect the indigenous communities' land following a visit to the UK by Jacir Jose de Souza and Pierlangela Nascimento da Cunha, in June.

Jacir and Pierlangela, who are from the Makuxi and Wapichana groups, toured Europe in a bid to gain international support for their campaign to save their Amazon forest home, and met the Holy Father at the Vatican. Read more about Brazil's ruling and CAFOD here....

New Zealand: PMA - Indigenous Rights Petition to Parliament

The first signatures on the national petition calling on the government to support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples will be presented to parliament at 1pm on Human Rights Day - Wednesday, 10 December.

Human Rights Day this year marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the first global statement expressing the inherent dignity and equality of all human beings. The theme of the year-long UN celebrations to mark the anniversary is 'Dignity and justice for all of us'.

"Unfortunately the New Zealand government appears to have little commitment to dignity and justice for all, as it remains one of only three governments around the world opposed to the most recent international human rights Declaration - the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples", Edwina Hughes, Peace Movement Aotearoa Coordinator, said today.

"This places NZ in a tiny minority of states that are ignoring their obligations under international law, and it makes a mockery of the government's claims to be a principled defender of human rights and a credible candidate for the UN Human Rights Council."

"We are calling on the new government to distance itself from the previous government's unprincipled position on the UN Declaration", Tracey Whare de Castro, Aotearoa Indigenous Rights Trust Trustee, added. "The Declaration sets minimum standards for the recognition and protection of the human rights of indigenous peoples around the world. What kind of message is the government sending if they continue to oppose it? That indigenous peoples cannot have the same human rights as others? Clearly that viewpoint is completely unacceptable." Read more about New Zealand and the indigenous petition here....

Last weeks Five Key Indigenous People's Issues can be found here.

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