This 1 day meeting in Geneva on July 6 aims to establish a Great Lakes Observatory to monitor gross human rights violations against the indigenous peoples of the region. The meeting will undertake a situation analysis of the human rights situation in the Great Lakes region: DRC, Rwanda and Burundi. It will also seek to better understand the UN Special Procedures mechanisms and discuss the practical implementation of monitoring capacity, including looking at the available resources and capacity for human rights monitoring and early warning systems.
The Great Lakes region of Africa, which includes Eastern DRC, Burundi and Rwanda, has a long and tragic history of violence. According to researchers who visited Rwanda before and after the 100 day war in 1994, it appears that 30% of the Batwa community were killed. The Batwa who are indigenous peoples in this region were on neither side of the conflict and yet were targeted by both combatant groups as a vulnerable, soft target.
This pattern of targeting indigenous peoples in the on-going instability of the region continues to today, with examples of mass rape, using indigenous peoples as human shields, and extreme human rights violations, notably in the Ituri Forest area and throughout the old provinces of Kivu Nord and Kivu Sud.
There is some indication that the level of violence and potential cross-border instability is again increasing in the Great Lakes. If the pattern follows as last time, we will likely be able to see an increase in violence against indigenous peoples before the actual crisis of wide spread conflict or renewed genocidal threats.
A workshop funded by the Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa (OSISA) and Bread for the World, and facilitated by IPACC, to be held in Geneva on the 6th of July, will bring the three main indigenous peoples' organisations together (PIDP-Kivu, UNIPROBA and COPORWA) to review the available technologies and methodologies available to record incidents of human rights violations against indigenous peoples on a weekly basis. This record, which would likely be made up of media reports (disaggregated for indigenous content), interviews with victims or witnesses, and other available data would create a monitoring device to provide early warning indications and track tensions in the sub-region.
OHCHR has offered to assist with explaining what rapid response mechanisms are in place already, how such data could be usefully directed within the UN system, and overall the OHCHR approach to the instability in the Great Lakes.
The meeting will conclude with a planning session where the indigenous organisational representatives will look at their own capacity, the UN tools and mechanisms currently available, and set out a road map and action plan for moving forward to capacity building and monitoring.
Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights