Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Indigenous People of Colombia are Facing Genocide: Who Will Work With Them to Protect Their Land, Stop Forced Relocation, and End the Mass Murder?

image of map is from here

The image above as well as what follows in text is a cross-post from Indian Country Today. Please click on the title below to link back.

Colombian indigenous still in danger of extinction

By Rick Kearns, Today correspondent

Advocates warn that many indigenous peoples in Colombia still face the danger of extinction due to an increase in homicides, threats and instances of forced displacement.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees issued a report Aug. 9, the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, focusing on these imminent and present dangers. The threats could result in the physical or cultural disappearance of many peoples, and the warnings about this emergency are not new.

In 2004, the United Nations Special Rapporteur Rodolfo Stavenhagen issued an alert warning that 12 indigenous groups were facing imminent extinction, and five years later in 2009, the Colombian Constitutional Court petitioned the government to “design and put into practice” special protections for 34 groups. In 2010, the Colombian authorities enacted a plan and invited U.N. officials to visit the country for further consultation.

The UNHCR report did note that in some regions of the country violence against Native peoples is decreasing, but in several other areas the problems are getting worse. Statistics from 2009 show that there was a 63 percent increase in the number of reported homicides of indigenous persons from 2008, with a notation of the effect the violence was having on children and adolescents. For instance, in the three massacres of Awa people in 2009, more than 11 percent of the 33 killed were minors under the age of 18.

The agency listed the Awa, along with the Wounaan, Embera, Eperara-Siapidara, Jiw, Nukak and Sicuani indigenous communities as requiring special protection. They also expressed concern over more problems affecting indigenous young people, such as the forced recruitment of young indigenous Colombians by illegal armed groups as well as sexual violence committed by these same armed groups in the Guaviare and Chaco departments. Suspected suicides by young indigenous women could be related to this sexual violence, the report stated.

The refugee agency stated that despite new efforts by the Colombian government, including the “special protections” for 34 indigenous communities, concerns are growing due to – among other factors – recent reports of the forced displacement of the Sicuani and Wounaan peoples. Both of these communities are among the 34 groups who have been granted protections. Figures for 2004 – 2009 show a total of 55,513 indigenous people were among the more than three million internally displaced Colombians. The report asserted that 70 percent of those displacements were due to violence, and that this same violence has increased in indigenous communities in nine regions.

Among the displaced are the nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes such as the Nukak, Sicuani, Jiw and Jitnu who are being forced to settle or are forcibly confined by illegal armed groups, which prevents the tribes from both accessing traditional sources of food and rituals such as hunting and other social customs.

The UNHCR report also found that displaced indigenous people were moving into urban centers and that these changes were also hindering the preservation of cultural identity and traditional social structures.

One of the indigenous people interviewed by the refugee agency was Simon, a 40-year-old member of the Inga community. He told the UNHCR about some of the consequences of his peoples displacement from the mountains in Southern Colombia to the eastern city of Villavicencio.

“The children that were born in Villavicencio don’t speak Inga; if they can they are embarrassed to. And that is not the young peoples fault. If we were able to have meetings, if they were able to continually participate in the meetings of us, the Inga, it would be much easier to feel part of a community and be proud of it.”

The issue of prior consultation was also featured in the agency report. The UNHCR asserted that “prior consultation on decisions that affect economic and social development is the instrument that allows indigenous people to exercise their rights to participate in national and regional governance.”

While the government of new President Juan Manuel Santos was commended for taking some steps toward protection of the indigenous peoples of Colombia, the agency warns that more enforcement and greater protections of all rights are needed to prevent the further disappearance of indigenous Colombians.

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