Agribusiness, farmer conflict, or urban expansion only cover a portion of violations that heighten tension between indigenous people and state and corporate interests in Africa. 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.”
- Maragoli vs. Agribusiness and the Republic of Uganda
- Wodaabe vs. Niger
- Fellata vs. Citadel Capital and Concord Agriculture
- Pastoralists vs. SAGCOT in Tanzania
- Suri vs. Lim Siow Jin Estate
- The Kuraz Sugar Development Project
- Komo vs. Resettlement
- Karayu vs. Land Grabbing in Oromia
- Investors Harm Herders in Gambella
- Hamar: Shift to Agro-Pastoralism
- The Chabu
- The Afar
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.
- Mau Forest Evictions of Maasai
- African Parks Foundation vs. Indigenous Peoples
- Denial of Legal Recognition for Baka in Cameroon
- Batwa vs. Kahuzi National Park
- Hadzabe Facing Extinction
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.
- Mbororo vs. Civil Strife
- Fulani Herders vs. Farmers
- Khoisan in South Africa
- The Borana
- Luba and Batwa Conflict
- San in Angola
- Amazigh vs. Violations in Algeria
- Bassari People in Senegal
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.
- Olkaria Geothermal Power Stations vs. Maasai
- Kel Tamasheq in Mali
- The Turkana
- LAPSSET Infrastructure in Isiolo County
- Amazigh vs. Tamalout Dam
- Amazigh vs. Noor Ouarzazate Solar Plant
- Himba vs. Hydroelectric Dam Proposals in Kunene Region
- Indigenous Peoples vs. Gibe III Dam
- Mbenga vs. Development in the Dzanga-Sangha Forest
- Grand Renaissance Dam vs. Berta and Gumuz
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.
- Denial of Legal Recognition for Baka in Cameroon
- San vs ReconAfrica
- Taoudeni Basin Oil Mining vs. Kel Tamasheq
- Imider Silver Mine vs. Amazigh
- Kel Tamasheq vs. Mining in Niger
- Ogoni vs. Shell
- Pojulu vs. Nile Trading & Development
- Kunama v. Nevsun Mining
- Mbuti in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve
- Rif vs. Jerada Mining
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.
- Bellah in Mali
- Sherkole and Tsore Refugee Camps
- Anywaa (Anuak) vs. Nuer vs. Gambella
- Caught in the Middle: Kunama Refugees
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.