A new report aims to provide the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights with persuasive and substantive arguments relating to a core element of original African traditions, namely sacred natural sites and their customary governance systems. It calls for a decisive policy and legislative response.
Sacred natural sites are places of ecological, cultural and spiritual importance, embedded in ancestral lands. They are recognised as such by indigenous peoples around the world, and Africa is no exception. Furthermore, custodian communities of sacred natural sites and territories are the foundation of Africa’s identity and heritage, which is at the core of the vision of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
A Statement and Call to Action, by custodian communities from six African countries, forms the nucleus of the report. In their own collective voice, they describe rstly how they are determined to maintain and protect their ancestral traditions, sacred natural sites and territories and, secondly, why this is so important. The report provides a body of legal and policy support for the custodians’ statement, drawn both from the African Charter as well as from international and domestic law. It reminds us that the African Charter commits member states to respect and maintain plural legal systems, and recommends that African countries should recognise a priori legal systems as part of their commitment to a proud African identity, to better navigate
a development path where the integrity and heritage of the continent is maintained. Annexures provide practical examples
of custodian communities who have sought legal recognition for their sacred natural sites and territories and customary governance systems; relevant international and regional legal instruments; and statements by the African Commission, which support the objectives of the report.
Key points that emanate from the report are:
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