Tribe Lobbies for Govt Recognition

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By Emma Kakololo WINDHOEK One of the largest segments of the Damara tribe, the !=Aodaman traditional community recently paid an urgent visit to State House as part of their daunting task to seek recognition as a traditional authority from the Government. The visit to President Hifikepunye Pohamba was a result of the process that started about seven years ago when the Traditional Authorities Act 2000, Act No. 25 of 2000, came into force. In 2000, the Damara Royal House took a decision to divide the house into eight groups, among them, the !=Aodaman Traditional Authority. However, the Government rejected their application as it subsequently only recognised five groups. The group has been seeking recognition through the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development but without an iota of success. The last application was submitted in 2005 after the group had consultations with the Deputy Prime Minister Dr Libertina Amathila. The group claims the non-recognition as a traditional authority has created a very disturbing situation among the community and has led them to operate in a vacuum, thus disadvantaging the people more in terms of development. “You may wonder, Your Excellency what unpleasant situation I’m talking about, but let me inform you that the neighbouring traditional authorities are taking advantage of the situation and have taken up large portions of our land claiming that it is their area as they are recognised and have done illegal registrations of farmers on communal land outside their area of jurisdiction and we have no control over utilisation of communal land,” Chief Petrus Ukongo told the President during the recent meeting at State House. “This sort of situation lets us think that we are second-class citizens in our own country. It also creates tension among our people and as peace-loving citizens, we would like to avoid conflict and build this nation together with every body,” he said. The chief said the registration for communal areas was due to end by the end of February, while many people have not been registered for communal land rights in their areas. He said the group was also unable to cooperate with the Government and the regional council and local authorities to fully implement developmental projects and policies due to their non-recognition. He noted that the non-recognition was preventing it from getting representation on important bodies where other traditional leaders are represented. “Your Excellency, we cannot administer and execute the community courts according to our customary laws, this situation leads to lawlessness amongst our people, especially on the matter of stock theft and small crimes which can be solved by the traditional leaders through cooperation with the law enforcement officers,” he stressed. “Your Excellency, this is the final attempt by my people to engage the Government in the consultative discussions about the recognition of the #Aodaman people as a traditional authority. Since your office is the last point to approve, I appeal to you to use the powers vested in you to positively consider our final application and recognise the traditional entity,” Chief Petrus Ukongo pleaded with the president.