Violation Categories

Start your journey by choosing a violation to learn more:


According to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, “dispossession of land and natural resources is a major human rights problem for indigenous peoples. They have in so many cases been pushed out of their traditional areas to give way for the economic interests of other more dominant groups and to large scale development initiatives that tend to destroy their lives and cultures rather than improve their situation….[including] widespread expansion of areas under crop production. They have all resulted in loss of access to fundamental natural resources that are critical for the survival of both pastoral and hunter-gatherer communities such as grazing areas, permanent water sources and forest products.”


Conservation goes unrecognized as likely the greatest source of land alienation in the territories of indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples are widely praised for their stewardship of land, water and natural resources such as forests and wildlife. The Global North seeks more forest cover for climate change mitigation and carbon emissions offset, as well as and pristine landscapes and exotic fauna for tourism and trophy hunting. It cannot produce these in its own territories due to well-protected property rights and greatly reduced wildlife diversity. Hence undue pressure arises on the Global South to compensate with their land and natural resources and indigenous peoples tend to pay the highest price.

Farmer Conflict

As multiple large-scale interests collide in the desire for more land and water resources (e.g., agribusiness, conservation initiatives, extractive industries, infrastructure projects), this strains available land and has produced increased levels of conflict between indigenous peoples and farming communities, who constitute the majority of rural residents in Africa. This gets misconstrued in media reports as “ethnic conflict” or “tribalism” when it actually is the result of conflict of ever-dwindling resources.


Large-scale infrastructure projects constitute another mode of dispossession of indigenous lands, territories and water resources. These are typically state-led modernization projects of enormous cost and involve appropriation of territory in the name of ‘public interest’. Examples include dams, oil and gas pipelines, wind and solar farms.

Extractive Industries

Extractive industries are a key source of human rights violations against indigenous peoples. In his final (2013) report as the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya attributed this to the fact that a substantial amount of the world’s remaining minerals and fossil fuels are found in indigenous peoples’ lands and territories. In most African countries, legal frameworks that are relics of colonialism heighten hardships of indigenous peoples. Specifically, laws provide that sub-surface resources are excluded from land rights and that once discovered, surface land rights come to an end, hence landowners must vacate it.

Language Violation


Once indigenous lands and territories are expropriated through any of the other violations explored on this site, displacement follows on scales ranging from a few individuals or households to entire communities. This is producing growing populations of both internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees, whose search for new land on which to pursue their livelihoods rarely find welcome. The cascading effects of eviction and displacement, which necessarily results in the displaced having to seek refuge on the land of others, is more conflict and more displacement. Host communities may themselves be subject to similar threats of land appropriation, breeding suspicion and amplifying the divide between host and guest, resident and immigrant. This is exacerbated where indigenous peoples are concerned since they typically meet with disrespect, disdain and a devaluing of their cultures, livelihoods and humanity by majority populations.

Urban Expansion

According to a recent (2020) report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Africa currently is one of the least urbanized places in the world. However, the urbanization rate is rapidly increasing such that by 2050, an estimated two-thirds of Africa’s population will be located in urban centers. As increasing numbers of rural residents move to urban areas to seek economic opportunities and improved access to services like education and healthcare, urban expansion occurs. On occasion, this leads to encroachment on the territories of indigenous peoples.