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Realizing the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples in East and Central Africa

Africa |
Realizing the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples in East and Central Africa

Duration: July 2015 – June 2018

Regions/countries: Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda

Minorities: Batwa, Benet, Endorois, Ik, Maasai, Ogiek

What is this programme about?

This programme aims to protect and advance the rights of highly marginalized and impoverished minorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

We want to strengthen the voices of these communities in national, regional and international human rights systems, undertake strategic legal cases on minority rights issues, and build the capacity of minority communities at the grassroots level to advocate for change.

Minorities in these countries face high levels of poverty, low access to basic services, low political participation, and suffer human rights violations on a daily basis. In order to create change, we work with marginalized communities to greater understanding of their human rights and resource control issues, strengthen their ability to use the law effectively, and improve their advocacy skills. We want to engage commitment from local, national and international decision-makers to protect minority rights in the long term.

Why are we delivering this programme?

For many years, minority and indigenous communities in these countries have experienced loss of lands and livelihoods, lack of access to basic services, lack of accountability by decision-makers, loss of cultural spaces, and ongoing and pervasive social discrimination.

The communities we work with fall into two traditional livelihood categories: pastoralists and hunter-gatherers.

Pastoralism, the practice of herding and raising livestock, directly supports an estimated 20 million people in East and Central Africa, yet policy making tends to marginalize pastoralist communities. Living in remote arid or semi-arid areas, they are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity and conflict. Their lands are appropriated for biofuel farming, tourism and other ‘investments’. Despite laws and policies to protect land rights, pastoralists suffer systematic land alienation, evictions, intimidations, and marginalisation. Across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, pastoralists are inadequately, if at all, consulted on policies which affect their lives.

Pastoralists experience entrenched poverty and persistent discrimination, with the majority population perceiving them as ‘sub-human’ and therefore devoid of rights. For example, long-standing racism is so internalised that Batwa (a pastoralist community) now effectively self-exclude.

Hunter-gatherers, who depend primarily on wild foods for subsistence, live across DRC, Rwanda and Uganda. Their cultural lives, and sometimes their economic lives, are closely intertwined with forests. However, governments have private interests have limited pastoralists’ access to forests, thereby threatening their very survival.

For example, the Benet in Uganda, a former hunter-gatherer community living on the side of Mt Elgon, have over the years been evicted from their ancestral lands through ‘conservation’ initiatives. In Kenya, the Ogiek (also hunter-gatherers) have an immense spiritual and cultural connection with their ancestral land. Over time, they have been dispossessed of their lands, first by colonial powers and more recently by the Kenyan government.

What are we doing?

  • Providing paralegal training sessions as well as 9 bursaries for paralegal trainees to undertake activities based on new learning from the paralegal/ refresher training.
  • Providing legal support on 4 legal cases involving violations of the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples to create a useful body of legal decisions which can both inform the mind-set of decision makers and provide a model for other indigenous groups in similarly challenging situations.
  • Advocacy sessions and country level and cross-country networking meetings.

Who is running the programme with us?


  • RAPY (Réseau des Associations Autochtones Pygmées)
  • FDAPID (Foyer de Développement pour l’Autopromotion des Pygmées et Indigènes Défavorisés)

In Uganda:

  • AICM (African International Christian Ministry)
  • BLG (Benet Lobby Group)
  • IADI (Ik Agenda for Development Initiative)

In Kenya:

  • OPDP (Ogiek Peoples Development Program)
  • EWC (Endorois Welfare Council)

In Tanzania

In Rwanda

Filed Under: Batwa, Maasai
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