By: Katherine Davis
Impunity Watch Staff Writer
WINDHOEK, Namibia – In 2015, eight members of the Hai//om brought a class action suit against Namibia’s government and other interested parties, seeking to gain rights in Etosha National Park, their former homeland. In November 2019, the Namibian High Court dismissed the case after Hai//om chief, David // Khamuxab withdrew his support. The Hai//om await an appeal date for the Supreme Court; however, Peter Watson, legal counsel for the Hai//om, announced that his team is prepared to take the case to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
The Hai//om occupied Etosha until 1954, when they were forced to leave their homes and move off of the property. This move forced them to become farm-laborers on the borders of Etosha, working for the white-owned commercial agricultural sector. Now, the Hai//om want to have a share in Etosha’s profits and the right to determine the use of the land as guaranteed to them in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
It is not the Hai//om’s intent to take this land away from the people of Namibia, tourists, and others. Their main goal is to promote and preserve the Hai//om culture, knowledge, and language. “If we win this case, we do not want to get rid of Etosha,” said Nicodemus Hawaseb, one of the eight applicants, in an interview with Reuters, “[w]e just want to be included in it. We want to showcase our culture to the world.”
Namibia’s government claims to be working diligently with the Hai//om in granting tourism rights, so that the indigenous communities can benefit financially from the park. However, the government refuses to label the park as ancestral land. In a phone interview with Reuters, the head of Namibia’s Wildlife and National Parks directorate, Colgar Sikopo, explained, “If we do this, then everyone else will want to claim a park of the park.”
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