• North Africa

    North Africa

    Who are the Indigenous Peoples of North Africa?

    The indigenous peoples of North Africa are Amazigh or Imazighn, often known as "Berbers". They differ from other populations of North Africa by their culture and their language - Tamazight – which has its own ancient alphabet, Tifinagh. Amazigh people have diverse dialects and are spread right across the North-West Africa region all the way to Egypt. They share a common heritage and linguistic origin with many dialects such as Tamajeg, Tamazight and Tashlheut. Among the different Amazigh ethnic groups are the Tuareg nomads of the southern region.

    The Amazigh people could count more than 30 million people in North Africa, representing a significant portion of the populations of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. There is also a large population Touareg south of Libya and Amazigh in Egypt, especially in the western oasis. The Canary Islands were formerly Amazigh before colonial assimilation. There is a large population Amazigh in the Diaspora, especially in Europe but to the Caribbean Islands, North America and Latin America.

    Algerian indigenous rights associations evaluate the National Amazigh population to 11 million people, one third of the total population. In Morocco, the Amazigh associations estimate that represent between 65% and 70% of the national population.

Human Rights

Recognition of Amazigh language and identity

During the 1950s, with the rise of liberation movements in the region, nationalists promoted an Arabisation philosophy to forge a common identity associated with Islam and the Arabic language. These Arabization efforts continued throughout the 20th century and contributed to the stifling of language and Amazigh culture in favour of assimilation.

The Amazigh language was banned from teaching in schools, and the integration of culture and the Amazigh language in the media severely limited. The worst period was in Morocco during the reign of Hassan II where Amazigh identity was aggressively suppressed and linguistic and cultural Arabization was backed up with imprisonment and human rights violations. Beyond this cultural Arabization, the second half of the twentieth century was marked by a lack of recognition of the existence of the Amazigh people by states.

The coronation of His Majesty Mohammed VI marked a revitalization of democratic bodies in Morocco and the establishment of the Royal Commission for Amazigh language and culture.

The situation in Algeria is complex and sensitive. Officially the territory of Kabylie is recognized as an area of Amazigh language and culture. In the other departments of the country, especially the south and in the city of Tamanrasset, the government still pursues an Arabization companion. Algeria has not had the same 'glasnost' experienced by Morocco, and during the popular uprisings in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, the security forces continued a public punishment, torture and manipulation of the democratic system.

With the rapid fall of the Gaddafi regime, Libya is still in an unstable and precarious situation.

The popular uprising in Tunisia (Jasmine Revolution) brought an end to decades of corruption and electoral manipulation. The opening of a free media, public participation and organization of civil society has also announced a new expression of Amazigh identity in Tunisia.

Indigenous peoples rights and legislation

The lack of recognition of the Amazigh people has been accompanied by a denial of basic rights. In the decades following the independence of the North African states, governments and judicial organs were hostile to the protection of Amazigh rights., Morocco withdrew from the African Union due to conflict over the Western Sahara.
The lack of recognition of land rights Amazigh has enabled states to enter many indigenous lands, waters and forests, which were then redistributed to national elites or investors, exacerbating poverty and precariousness of the Amazigh and relocated. This situation is still current in Morocco, where state corruption is facilitating the annexation of a major urban area in Agadir, a suburb known for its large forests of argan trees and promised to Amazigh by King Mohammed V.

Climate change and the environment

The Amazigh people face numerous environmental and climate pressures. The overexploitation of aquifers makes access to safe water and sufficient difficult. Amazigh communities also suffer from deforestation, extinction of animal and plant areas, as well as pasture degradation in the region. These environmental pressures have recently gained momentum with current climate change which exacerbate existing environmental problems and increased intensity and frequency of droughts in North Africa.

Some multinational companies in the Ahnet basin near the town of In Salah, Algeria in the Ahaggar and the Illizi basin in Ajjer use hydraulic fracturing technology (“fracking”)  to exploit shale gas. This technique is very controversial and affects the inhabitants of the city. Algerian Sahara populations have triggered a movement of solidarity for the City of In Salah. However, multinationals supported by the Algerian Government continue to pollute the land.

Environmental advocacy and for Amazigh rights over land.

Environmental and territorial issue has recently gained importance at the heart of activism Amazigh in North Africa. The Amazigh Cultural Movement has published several releases promoting Amazigh rights over land. In addition, Tamaynut and Tamunt n’Iffus are now involved in multilateral environmental conventions of the United Nations: The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD).

IPACC is supporting Amazigh associations to organize a series of training workshops in collaboration with the Moroccan Ministry of the Environment in preparation for both COPs21 and 22. Amazigh organisations have a national steering committee to prepare to host the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC in Marrakech in 2016.