African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission), through the Chairperson of its Working Group on the Rights of Indigenous Populations/Communities and Minorities in Africa, follows with concern the reports of harassment of the Mosopisyek community of Benet in and around Mt. Elgon in the Republic of Uganda. 

Reports reaching the African Commission reveal that since the 1993 government decision of the Republic of Uganda to establish the Mount Elgon National Park (MENP), the indigenous Benet Peoples have faced increasing forceful evictions, specifically arising since 2008. These evictions have unfortunately not been accompanied by free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), nor by an award of adequate compensation and/or alternative resettlement.

Most recently, the Commission has been concerned about reports of several acts of violence, intimidation, threats, sexual assault, destruction, and confiscation of property by the members of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), in the process of enforcing the 1993 decision. The reports reveal escalations through the months of June to August 2022 following the community’s organization of peaceful assemblies to reclaim their land.

The Commission further notes that to date, the Government of the Republic of Uganda has not enforced the 2005 Consent judgment of the domestic Court, which recognised the Mosopisyek people as indigenous occupants of Mount Elgon and accorded them the right to remain in temporary settlements and to reclaim their schools and services.

The African Commission is gravely concerned that such actions by UWA amount to grave danger to various rights of the members of this community, including their rights to: life, bodily integrity, justice, freedom of assembly, property, culture, family, existence and natural resources.  

The African Commission wishes to draw the attention of the Government of the Republic of Uganda, to its Resolution 489 (LXIX) 2021 on the Recognition and Protection of the Right of Participation, Governance and Use of Natural Resources by Indigenous and Local Populations in Africa. This Resolution emphasizes the rights of indigenous populations and communities over the conservation, control, management, and sustainable use of their natural resources, as well as the duty of States to take necessary measures to strengthen their participation in such governance processes. 

In the light of the foregoing, the African Commission requests the Government of the Republic of Uganda to:

1) Take appropriate measures to ensure the cessation of all forms of harassment or violence against the indigenous Benet community, and hence guarantee their safety and security;

2) Urgently initiate thorough, independent, and impartial investigations into all violations against the Benet Peoples and effectively make public the results of the investigations, with a guarantee of due accountability from the perpetrators, and effective reparations to victims (and/or their families where appropriate);

3) Adopt appropriate policy, legal and administrative measures for the full recognition of the rights of the Benet Peoples over their lands, territories and resources as enshrined in the African Charter, and take all necessary steps to effectively implement the Consent Judgment of 27 October 2005;

4) Adopt relevant measures to guarantee an integration of international conservation policies and management plans across all protected areas in Uganda; and

5) Report back to the African Commission on steps being taken or undertaken and on the result of the investigation in paragraph (2) above.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights.