The African Commission Raises Major Concerns over Harassment against the Benet Indigenous Community in the Republic of Uganda
International Justice and Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights raised major concerns over the reports of harassment of and abuses against the Mosopisyek community of Benet in and around Mt. Elgon in the Republic of Uganda.
Also known as Ndorobo - “primitive people of the mountain” - the Benet are a hunter-gatherer and pastoralist community from Mount Elgon, Uganda. Despite identifying themselves as an indigenous group with a different culture, tradition and language, according to the Constitution of Uganda, the Benet are excluded from the list of 56 “indigenous communities” officially recognised. Instead, the Benet are labelled as a sub-group of the Sabiny people of Kapchorwa district as indicated in their official documents, such as identity cards. (Amnesty International, 2021) According to evidence received and collected by the African Commission, since 1993 the Republic of Uganda decision to establish the Mount Elgon National Park (MENP) led to the forceful eviction of thousands of indigenous Benet Peoples, with a sharp increase from 2008 onwards. Neither a free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), nor adequate compensation and/or alternative resettlement have been offered to the Benet in breach of international commitments as well as African law and principles. In recent years, the Commission has been particularly concerned of numerous “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. Such grave violations are taking place despite the 2005 Consent judgement 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.” (African Commission, 2022)
The African Commission calls on the Republic of Uganda to increase its efforts and take appropriate measures to combat any act of violence perpetrated against the indigenous Benet community. Indigenous rights must be protected and guaranteed in accordance with international law and the principle set in the African Charter, which aims at promoting the dignity of each African individual and group by guaranteeing their safety and security. When violations occur, prompt, effect and transparent investigation must be conducted to bring perpetrators of human rights violations to justice, while guarantee victims access to justice and effective reparations (African Commission, 2022)
Sources and Further Readings:
African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, (October 4, 2022), Urgent call for the cessation of multiple rights violations against the Benet Mosopisyek Community in the Republic of Uganda, African Commission Press Release, retrieved on October 4th, 2022, from https://www.achpr.org/pressrelease/detail?id=660
Amnesty International (2021), 13 Years in Limbo: Forced Evictions of the Benet in the Name of Conservation, Amnesty International, retrieved on October 4th, 2022, from https://www.amnesty.org/en/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/AFR5941382021ENGLISH.pdf.