IPACC East Africa has members in Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and southern Ethiopia. The indigenous peoples of East Africa are Pastoralists and hunter-gatherers who pre-date the migration of Bantu agro-pastoralist peoples into this region. The transhumant pastoralist includes the Maasai, Samburu, Borana, Rendille, Gabra, El Molo, Turkana, Pokot, of Kenya, the Karamajong of Uganda, the Datoga-Barabaig of Tanzania and the Mursi of Ethiopia. Hunters and gatherers include the Ogiek, Sengwer, Endorois, Aweer, Waata, Elmolo, Yiaku, of Kenya, the Batwa, Ilk, Soo, Benet, Aasax of Uganda and the Akie Hadzabe and Sandawe of Tanzania.


Indigenous peoples in the Eastern Africa region face numerous challenges that include historical political, social and economic marginalization, non-recognition and denial of land rights, lack of inclusion, consultation and compensation in natural resources exploitation including in extractive industries, land fragmentation among others. Most of their territories have been designated as protected areas for wildlife and forest conservation or as “water towers.” Consequently, their cultures, traditions including their belief systems and livelihood systems are under immense threats.

Environmental degradation is widespread in pastoralists territories especially through large scale cash crop farming. Massive deforestation of forest communities areas including the Mau forest complex endangers the life of not only hunter gatherers communities but also indigenous communities downstream and the nation at large.  Climate change is especially an present threat to indigenous peoples in Eastern Africa. Unpredictable weather patterns, increasing instances of drought, new diseases and locusts are currently ravaging indigenous peoples territories.

Climate change mitigation and adaptation programs implemented without the FPIC of IPs threatens their cultures, livelihoods and traditions. As a result of non-recognition of their rights, the communities lack basic services like schools, hospitals, roads among others. Their problems are compounded by lack of coordination of their advocacy activities.


Eastern African countries are at different stages of recognizing indigenous peoples rights. In 2010, Kenya adopted a new Constitution that mentioned for the first-time rights of minority and marginalized communities. It recognized indigenous communities as marginalized communities, recognizes community land rights, indigenous cultures and knowledge systems and provides for affirmative action programs for indigenous peoples. The Ogiek and Endorois have won major decisions that recognize their rights at the African Court on Human Rights and the African Commission on Human Rights respectively. However, despite the laws and decisions, implementation remains a challenge. In Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia recognition still remains a challenge and consequently their rights are not addressed. Despite Ethiopia’s strong tradition of indigenous pastoralism including the Afar of the arid north-eastern region, there has not been a major mobilisation of pastoralists to claim indigenous peoples’ status.

The East Africa Community has no program on indigenous peoples but its social inclusion department has compiled a compendium of instruments that address indigenous peoples rights. Part of the problem results from lack of engagement by indigenous peoples in the East Africa Community processes despite the deep and widespread impact that the decisions of the Community will have on their rights. 

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Indigenous Environment Defenders.

Africa’s hunter-gatherer and nomadic pastoralist peoples have lived symbiotically and sustainably within Africa’s ecosystems for millenia. Their Traditional Knowledge Systems are treasure houses of indigenous knowledge.

Under colonialism, African hunters and nomads suffered land dispossession and cultural oppression. In the post-colonial era, they’ve advocated for their land, cultural and human rights.

Now, in this Age of Climate Change, Africa’s hunter-gatherer and nomadic pastoralist peoples are recognised as frontline guardians and managers of African biodiversity, and provide early warning for climate change trends.

We appeal to African governments to formally recognise the Traditional Knowledge Systems and practices of hunters and nomads.


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