Indigenous people seek better deal

INDIGENOUS societies in the country are continuing to urge the government to chart a legal recognition framework for the group in the promotion and protection of their rights as it is stipulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UDRIP).

The group is estimated to comprise of eight million people in the country, embracing the Maasai, Barbaig, Akie, Taturu and Hadzabe. Among other things, they want the government to legally recognise and protect their income generating activities like ordinary people.

A representative of the group from the Tanzania Pastoralist Community Forum (TPCF), Ms Josephine Herman, touched on the issues in Dar es Salaam, over the week at commemorations of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples marked annually on every August 9.

“The enactment of a proper law and policy will help safeguard the rights of indigenous people as well as ease implementation of the UN declaration. Improvement of social services like education and health systems in areas where indigenous people reside is also critical,” Ms Herman said.

They also proposed that the particular day should be acknowledged and recognised in the national calendar like other special days which are marked annually.

While this year’s theme is “Indigenous Peoples’ Migration and Movement” worldwide, in the country the theme is branded “Recognition, Protection and Developing Indigenous Livelihood is to contribute to Industrialised Tanzania”.

Since the concept of indigenous people is still contentious, the Executive Secretary of the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG), Ms Mary Massay, called upon the group to continue engaging the government through advocacy strategies and consultative dialogues.

Ms Massay observed that the move would help come up with and adoption of a terminology which fits in the Tanzanian context.

“As consultation and participation of the communities at the grassroots in the planning and implementation of development projects is a matter of policy and law, the consultation of indigenous people in establishing an industrialised Tanzania is very important by taking into account the livelihoods and attachment of the group to ancestral land,” observed Ms Massay.

The TPCF Executive Director, Mr Joseph Parsambei, pointed out that the organisation decided to host the commemorations for the particular day not to go unnoticed. “The goal is to promote the ideas of indigenous people, advocate for their rights and air their views,” noted Mr Parsambei.

He cited some of the challenges facing the group and require attention as inadequate social services, land conflicts, climate change and its impacts, unequal representation in decision making bodies, lack of legal framework for their recognition, remoteness and infrastructure.

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