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Tens of thousands of pastoral farmers driven off their land for commercial large scale farms
by Amnesty International
Oct. 2019
Tens of thousands of pastoral farmers who have been driven off their land to make way for commercial cattle ranches have been exposed to a greater risk of hunger and starvation as drought grips southern Angola according to a new report published by Amnesty International today.
The end of cattle’s paradise: How diversion of land for ranches eroded food security in the Gambos calls on the Angolan government to immediately provide emergency food assistance to the communities facing hunger, declare a moratorium on land grants, and appoint a commission of inquiry to investigate how 46 commercial farms ended up with two-thirds of the best grazing land in Tunda dos Gambos and Vale de Chimbolela since the end of civil war in 2002.
“The current drought in Angola has exposed the devastating impact of commercial cattle farming on communities in Gambos. Traditional cattle farmers have lost their best grazing land and now watch helplessly as their children and families go to bed on empty stomachs,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa.
“The government has failed to protect the rights of these communities - in particular, their right to food. They have been left to scratch a living from infertile, unproductive land – and now as the drought tightens its grip - they have simply been left with nothing to eat.”
The report shows that hunger and starvation are rife among the Vanyaneke and Ovaherero people living in the Gambos. Colloquially this region is known as Angola’s “milk region” because cattle rearing and milk production have been central to the economy and way of life of people here.
Forced to eat leaves to survive
While the semi-arid Gambos region is prone to cyclical droughts, Amnesty International found that traditional cattle breeders and their families are struggling to produce food for themselves after communal grazing land, which once mitigated against the impact of drought, was allocated by the government to commercial cattle farmers.
As a result, pastoralists are left with insufficient and unproductive land for growing food and grazing their cattle. Milk, cheese, yoghurt and meat production is the main source of their livelihoods.
Families told Amnesty International researchers that the situation is now so dire that they had resorted to eating wild leaves. Many said they suffer with sickness and diarrhea and have also developed skin conditions such as scabies due to water scarcity and poor hygienic conditions.
One pastoralist told Amnesty International that: “There is not enough milk anymore. So, we the grown-ups have given up drinking milk so that the children can still have some. As you can see, we do not look healthy and strong as we used to be. We are skinny and weak.”
Another pastoralist said that: “These days many people are becoming very sick because of hunger. Sometimes we go to Chiange to sell firewood so that we can buy some food. There is someone who died here because of hunger.”
Grazing and farming land taken away from communities
According to the government, there are now 46 commercial livestock farms occupying 2,629km2 of the most fertile land, leaving only 1,299km2 of grazing land for the traditional cattle breeders. This translates to 67% of the land occupied by commercial farmers, leaving pastoralists with only 33% of the land.
Amnesty International found that the land, used for centuries as communal grazing land by pastoralists from southern Angola’s Cunene, Huila, and Namibe provinces, was taken away from communities without due process.
Despite this, the government has allowed commercial livestock farmers to occupy the Tunda dos Gambos and Vale de Chimbolela without giving local communities any form of compensation, clearly violating the country’s law.
Under the country’s constitution, there must be full consultations with affected communities before their land is taken away. However, the Angolan government allowed commercial farmers to take grazing land from the pastoralists without any consultation.
“In failing to protect this communal grazing land from commercial interests, the Angolan government has failed to protect the very same people that it claims its legitimacy to govern,” said Deprose Muchena.
Angola has ratified regional and international laws that guarantee and protect the right to food for all its people. By ratifying these laws, the country has committed to ensuring the provision of “adequate food and safe drinking water.” This requires the government to take all reasonable measures to help people to access nutrition.
Amnesty International is calling on the Angolan government to issue reparations to affected communities, and to take immediate steps to address food insecurity in the Gambos.
The report documents large-scale diversion of land to commercial farmers in the Gambos municipality in Huila province, southern Angola, and its impact on the right to food of the pastoralists’ community.
Amnesty International undertook two research missions to the Gambos in February 2018 and March 2019 and interviewed dozens of women and men who have been directly affected by the diversion of land for commercial cattle farming. The organization also interviewed local civil society groups.
In addition, the organization analyzed satellite images to determine the progressive increase of the land’s use for commercial livestock farming and the resulting shrinking of grazing land for the pastoralists’ livestock at Tunda dos Gambos, between 1990 and 2018.
* Namati: Land and resource rights violations resources:

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Respect for human rights is a moral and humane imperative
by Michelle Bachelet
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
9 September 2019
We are ‘burning up our future’, UN’s Bachelet tells Human Rights Council. (UN News)
The Human Rights Council opened in Geneva on Monday with a warning from the UN’s top rights official that, with forest fires raging in the Amazon, “we are burning up our future, literally”.
In a direct appeal to the forum’s 47 Member States to unite to tackle climate change, Michelle Bachelet insisted that every region of the world stands to be affected.
In the short-term, however, the worst effects of the fires and “drastic acceleration of deforestation” in Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil were on the families living in these areas, she explained.
“Climate change is a reality that now affects every region of the world,” the High Commissioner maintained. “The human implications of currently projected levels of global heating are catastrophic. Storms are rising and tides could submerge entire island nations and coastal cities. Fires rage through our forests, and the ice is melting. We are burning up our future – literally.”
Citing UN reports that the climate emergency has caused a sharp increase in global hunger levels, the High Commissioner also noted that warmer temperatures will likely contribute to an additional 250,000 deaths per year between 2030 and 2050 from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.
“The world has never seen a threat to human rights of this scope”, Ms. Bachelet insisted. “This is not a situation where any country, any institution, any policymaker can stand on the sidelines. The economies of all nations; the institutional, political, social and cultural fabric of every State, and the rights of all your people – and future generations – will be impacted.”
Speaking 14 days before UN Secretary-General António Guterres opens a Climate Action Summit in New York, the High Commissioner urged the Geneva-based Council to do its bit, too.
Each State should contribute the “strongest possible action to prevent climate change”, Ms. Bachelet told Member States, and they should promote the “resilience and rights” of their citizens when implementing these policies, too – one of no less than two dozen references in her speech to indigenous peoples and minorities.
The High Commissioner also highlighted numerous other country-specific human rights situations requiring the Council’s attention.
Citing ongoing concerns about Kashmir, the High Commissioner cited continuing reports of curfews, internet blackouts and restrictions on political gatherings, including the detention of activists.
Appealing to Pakistan “and particularly to India” to ensure people’s access to basic services, Ms. Bachelet also highlighted the recent census in the north-east Indian state of Assam.
Some 1.9 million people had been excluded from this list, she maintained, before appealing to the Indian authorities to “ensure due process” for anyone appealing against this development, while also ensuring that people are protected against statelessness.
On Ukraine, where more than five years of conflict in eastern territories bordering Russia has left thousands dead and injured tens of thousands more, the High Commissioner welcomed the “breakthrough agreement” of prisoner releases between the two countries.
“I strongly encourage all parties to build on this momentum, to put an end to the conflict in eastern Ukraine,” she added.
Turning to South Africa, Ms. Bachelet noted the “terrible recent incidents of xenophobic violence” where a spate of attacks has reportedly claimed the lives of least 10 foreigners.
“All people in South Africa – citizens and foreign nationals alike – are entitled to fundamental human rights under the Constitution and international human rights law,” Ms. Bachelet said, while welcoming President Cyril Ramaphosa’s condemnation of the violence.
Sudan’s new Cabinet ‘a cause for celebration’
On Sudan, where a ministerial cabinet was sworn in on Sunday, a first since President Omar Bashir was removed from office in April amid country-wide protests – Ms. Bachelet called the development “ a cause for great celebration”.
She also welcomed the many human rights references contained in Sudan’s new Constitutional Declaration, notably its commitment to establishing a national investigation committee, following reported extreme rights violations against protesters.
Amid ongoing protests in Hong Kong, the UN official reiterated her appeal to demonstrators to engage “peacefully and constructively” with the authorities. At the same time, she urged the territory’s security forces to respond to any violence with restraint.
Briefing to members of the UN Human Rights Council, 4 September 2019 by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. (Extract)
''I am convinced that progress on human rights is entirely within our grasp – even in today''s difficult context.. Ours is not an easy task. We need to tackle both longstanding, entrenched human rights issues, and new ones – and many of these challenges are vast in magnitude and scope. This makes partnership an imperative. Cooperating involves compromises – which must be made by all sides – but it ensures we can advance.
In the past 50 years some countries have travelled from dictatorship to democracy – mine among them. Others have given the right to vote, or full participation, to large numbers of people who were previously deprived of those rights – including, for many of our countries, to half the population: women.
Some countries have brought millions of people out of poverty, and enabled their access to higher education, quality health-care – and greater human dignity.
These have been enormous gains for the cause of human rights. They were achieved in the face of tremendous challenges. And they have strengthened our societies, opening the path to economic, social, political and cultural growth.
As High Commissioner, I am committed to working with Member States to rebuild the consensus of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: no matter what type of government or economic system, and across every culture and tradition, all States have an obligation to respect economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights.
This respect for human rights is a moral and humane imperative – and it is also a practical means to contribute to sustainable development, enduring peace, and sustainable environment for all of us.
Civil Society
In recent months, people in many countries have taken to the streets to ask for greater economic, social, civil and political rights. They want something fundamentally human: to have the right to participate in decisions about their lives and their future.
Experience demonstrates that the best way of addressing protests and dissent for a government is by engaging in genuine, free and inclusive dialogue.
The use of unnecessary and disproportionate force against people holding and expressing critical views exacerbates tensions and makes a sustainable exit from crisis more difficult.
People have a right to come together peacefully to express their views, to demand action and engage in dialogue with the authorities to find solutions.
This drives better policies, and more responsive government, in societies which are more innovative, confident, resilient and secure. When that right is denied, there will be a build-up of legitimate grievances, and increasing repression, which lays the ground for growing risks of explosive tension and rage.
Increasing numbers of States are adopting laws which sharply restrict the rights of their peoples to come together and act for their rights. They include restrictions on funding, and very restrictive requirements for registration of civil society organisations.
Activists are also suffering disinformation and smearing as traitors to their nation; and misuse of the justice system to repeatedly raid CSOs and prosecute activists as criminals, merely for expressing political views or coming together in demonstrations.
We are also seeing attacks by non-State actors, including killings, which are not being adequately investigated and prosecuted.
Digital technology is now basic to all kinds of social, political, economic and cultural interactions. But public and private surveillance is also growing – from CCTV in the streets, to systems which collect and analyse people''''s activity on social media.
Among other forms of repression, civil society organisations have also been targeted for malware attacks, and debilitating digital harassment, which may involve State actors. Heavy censorship of the Internet and social media, or cutting access altogether, is increasingly used to stifle social organization and community dialogue.
Our work to document SDG indicator 16.10 indicates that from 1 January to end October 2018, at least 397 human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists were killed, in 41 countries.
This does not include cases of kidnapping, forced disappearance, arbitrary detention or torture. Every week saw at least 8 people murdered because they were trying to build more inclusive and equal societies – a disturbing increase from the average of one victim per day recorded from 2015 to 2017.
Half of these victims had been working with communities on issues involving land, the environment, poverty, the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples, and the impact of business activities.
2030 Agenda
Freedom from fear and freedom from want cannot be achieved in isolation from each other, as the 2030 Agenda clearly attests. Advancing the right to development means progressing on civil and political rights as well as crucial economic, social and cultural rights.
For the first time in human history, thanks to advances in health, economies and many other fields, we now have the capacity to end extreme poverty and advance universal social protection, and universal health coverage. The cost of doing nothing is far too expensive.
We need integrated approaches, grounded in broad participation, which build on the mutually reinforcing work of many communities. Equal participation and accountability are key so that women, minorities and marginalized populations share the benefits of sustainable development.
International Humanitarian Law - the rights of ordinary people in conflict.
The Geneva Conventions are an expression of principles which should be at the core of every human society. As Peter Maurer, the President of the ICRC has said, they are – "Do not target civilians.. Do not rape.. torture.. or execute.. Do not target hospitals or schools.. Do not use illegal weapons.. Do not threaten, kidnap or kill those who help.”
These are principles which resound with all of us, I think, as instinctively right and just.
But unfortunately, what we see in conflicts today is that they are being deliberately violated by an increasing number of States, as well as by numerous non-State actors.
There is no possible justification for actions such as repeated "double-tap" airstrikes on hospitals, and minutes later, on rescue teams and first responders. When attacks are made against precisely those key services whose location has been flagged to parties to a conflict in order to ensure that they will be protected, the very basis of international humanitarian law is under attack.
The toll of armed conflict on civilians is rising.
This Council is responsible for promoting universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.
We must harness the greatest possible energy to ensure accountability for these severe and profound violations of human rights.
In the face of threats to peace and to development, we need to stand together, and assist each other to advance the human rights protection which can sustain human dignity and freedom.
* Global update to the 42nd session of the Human Rights Council by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet - Geneva, 9 September 2019 see link below:
* 42nd session of the Human Rights Council: Reports:

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