Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009 - Namibia

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 16 July 2009
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009 - Namibia, 16 July 2009, available at: [accessed 27 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Namibia faces a presidential and parliamentary election in November 2009. Its indigenous groups, in particular the San, still face exploitation. While the law says that all indigenous groups should participate equally in decisions affecting their lands, cultures, traditions and allocations of natural resources, the San and other indigenous groups have been unable to exercise these rights fully as a result of minimal access to education, limited economic opportunities and relative isolation. According to the US State Department's 2008 Human Rights Report, the Namibian government, under President Hifikepunye Pohamba, took measures to end discrimination against the San. According to a report from the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in July 2008, this included the San Development Programme, which: 'aimed specifically to accelerate San people in education, literacy and resettlement programmes'. It also included seeking their advice about proposed legislation on communal lands and increasing their access to education. Indigenous lands were effectively demarcated, but 'poorly managed' and the group remained excluded in many cases.

A major issue for minority groups in Namibia is achieving political recognition. The government has the authority to withhold recognition from traditional leaders, even in opposition to local preference. For example, in February 2008, Katjamba Tjambiru, a female chief of the Ovahimba community, claimed that the government rejected her application for official recognition as a traditional authority because she did not support the ruling party. The government subsequently recognized her nephew Vemuii Tjambiru, a SWAPO (the governing party) supporter.

Many children of indigenous and rural families do not attend school. Children from poorer families are also less likely to be educated, and more likely to be involved in child labour.

The government has introduced programmes to support children to stay in school. Overall, primary school enrolment has risen to about 76 per cent for boys and 81 per cent for girls. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare and the Ministry of Health and Social Services targeted orphans, providing grants and scholarships to keep them in school. Additionally, the government collaborated with the Namibia Agricultural Union and the Namibia Farm Workers Union to eliminate child labour through awareness campaigns.

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