Indigenous peoples in Cameroon have listed a series of challenges government needs to address to guarantee their sustainable social inclusion.
On the 29th Indigenous Peoples Day commemorated in Yaounde on August 9, 2023, Mbembo Luc, a chief of the Baka community in Cameroon enumerated challenges that have slowed down their social inclusion.
“ I want the government to help us solve the numerous problems we have. It is difficult for us to have birth certificates. We want our children to be educated and occupy important positions in our country. We need to have marriage certificates and identity cards. We can’t travel without ID cards,” Mbembo Luc, chief of the Baka community said.
The Indigenous Peoples Day was commemorated in Yaounde on the theme “Citizenship education as a strategy for the social inclusion of indigenous peoples,” in a ceremony chaired by the Secretary General of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Itoh Beryl Ikombe Panje.
Government officials acknowledge that indigenous peoples have a right to education, healthcare, employment, vocational training, access to communication platforms, and citizenship. Accordingly, the Indigenous Peoples Day is a good time to review and identify government measures to speed up social inclusion.
“ Stakeholders need to look at how to educate the indigenous people on their civic rights. We also need to see how we can work together with indigenous people to enable them perform their role as agents of change especially with regards access to civil status documents and political participation.” Itoh Beryl Ikombe Panje, Secretary General of the Ministry of Social Affairs said.
The government is currently working on facilitating access to basic social services, and the role of indigenous peoples in sustainable development. The Secretary General of the Ministry of Social Affairs says educating indigenous peoples will permit youths contribute to the emergence of Cameroon in 2035.
Aside government efforts to ensure sustainable social inclusion, indigenous people are also asking for recognition of their role in biodiversity conservation.
“Indigenous peoples are the stewards of the environment and they have a critical role to play in decision making arena . We are calling on stakeholders to always consult these communities to make sure their voices are heard when decisions are being taken with regards the protection and preservation of the environment,” Aehshatou Manu, Secretary General of African Indigenous Women Organization Central African Network (AIWO-CAN) said.
Reinforcing the collective rights of indigenous peoples through access to civil status, warding off historic injustices, marginalisation, and exclusion which have been a part of their experiences is also of keen interest to the government.
The involvement of indigenous and vulnerable populations in the National Plan for the Development of Indigenous Peoples was recently evaluated during the 11th Inter-Sectoral Monitoring Committee on Programmes and Projects of indigenous and Vulnerable Populations.
Indigenous people have a right to contribute to decision making and development of the country.
The International Day of Indigenous Peoples is a time to celebrate their achievements and highlight their struggles. Governments also seize the occasion to address the plights of these marginalised peoples.
Kathy Neba Sina