Indigenous people often experience human rights abuses, racial discrimination, genocide, ethnic cleansing, limited participation in government policies, and lack of self-determination.
However, international law grants indigenous peoples certain specific rights including the right to enjoy and practice their culture and language without interference; the right to access and develop ancestral lands and territories freely; and the right to participate, decide, and develop appropriate development on their traditional territories in addition to other human rights.
In many cases, there is an information gap between indigenous peoples and authorities resulting in both sides becoming suspicious of one another. As the gap widens, indigenous peoples may become isolated and blamed for every incident in their own territories. The case of gross human rights violations against Anuak (Anywaa) indigenous peoples in the Gambela region in 2003 exhibits either a clear information gap between authorities and indigenous peoples or a deliberate attempt by authorities to oppress indigenous peoples.
Over 500 indigenous Anuak people were murdered by government forces in the events of 2003. They also raped women, tortured innocent civilians, displaced 51,000 civilians, forced thousands to flee to neighboring countries for safety and protection, and destroyed property and crops on indigenous farmlands in Gambela.
The government of Ethiopia’s failure to investigate and bring those responsible to justice for the atrocities and crime against humanity caused further distrust among indigenous peoples of government activities in their traditional lands and ancestral territories.
Since the government embarked on massive agricultural projects without consultation and compensation a few years ago, we remain concerned abour the consequences of a lack of communication between the indigenous peoples and the Ethiopian government. In particular, the government’s attempt to relocate indigenous peoples from their traditional farmlands to unproductive areas in the region violates the economic and social rights of indigenous people. The consequences are abject poverty, deprivation of vital economic resources, marginalisation, and further insecurity in the region.
Anywaa Survival Organisation campaigns and lobbies governments on the importance of respecting the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples in the Gambela region and adjacent territories so they may fully enjoy peace, security, and appropriate development.