Indigenous coalition opposed to new dam

By Delme Cupido | February 28th, 2012
Indigenous leaders in Namibia signing anti-dam statement. Photo © Rebecca Sommer
Indigenous leaders in Namibia signing anti-dam statement. Photo © Rebecca Sommer

If the Namibian government thought it had enough on its hands after indigenous Himba leaders issued a powerful statement listing a host of human rights violations and calling on the UN to intervene, it now has another campaign by indigenous groups to worry about - and a real fight on its hands over plans to build a new dam in the Baynes Mountains.

The Namibian government was forced to back down the last time it tried to construct a dam - the notorious Epupa hydroelectric dam - after widespread oppostion and a concerted campaign by indigenous groups, which helped to convince the World Bank and other backers to withdraw their support. But it seems as if the government did not learn its lesson - and now it is trying to bulldoze through another dam just downstream from Epupa in the Baynes mountains.

And oncea again, indigenous groups are up in arms - particularly the most affected groups, the Ovahimba, Ovatwa, Ovatjimb and Ovazemba.

Leaders of the four groups signed a statement cataloguing the government's disregard for their rights and demanding that the project be axed. The statement (which can be downloaded below) reads:

"When Namibia wanted to build the Epupa Dam, we objected. Today, we object again, this time against the new plans of the government to build a dam, this time at Orokawe in our Baynes Mountains. We, the most directly affected Indigenous Peoples say NO!

In several meetings between us and the government, we made our refusal to this dam very clear. We don’t understand why we have to repeat ourselves over and over again, and the government is still not listening to us, and is continuing to push for the construction of the dam without our consent.

We collectively refused the money offered to those communities and families that would have to relocate if the government is going to build the dam; they better kill us first before they do that. This is our land. We are the original inhabitants and the owners of the area that would be destroyed and flooded by the dam.

But since independence, the Government has dispossessed us from our rights to our land and our rights to decide what is being with and on it. Our traditional leaders, our representatives that we choose, are not recognized by the government, violating the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples. If they build the dam, many of us will drown ourselves in the dam. Other of us will fight, and Namibia will have civil war in our area.

We don’t want to face the negative impact that comes with such a large scale construction i.e. large trucks, shops owned by strangers, foreign traders, big town, prostitution, theft, crime, diseases, the loss and destruction of land, and the flooding of our grave sites of our ancestors. We don’t want the river being blocked. Water is life. It is not only us objecting to this dam. The people in Angola that would also be affected by the dam strongly object to it as well.

  • We demand that the government halts immediately any further plans to construct Baynes Site dam without our free, prior informed consent
  • We request that Namibia allows the Special Rapporteur on the rights and fundamental freedoms of Indigenous Peoples to visit us in Namibia
  • We insist that the president of Namibia, the Minister of Mines and Energy, the Ombudsman and other relevant high level officials conduct a meeting with us, in our area, on our soil - but without the police and military forces that we don’t want here (UNDRIP Article 30).

 

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