Cablegate: Angola Hosts First San Conference

DE RUEHLU #0477/01 1351605
R 151605Z MAY 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) Summary: Representatives from San communities in
Angola gathered with San representatives from other Southern
African countries, NGOs, and government officials for the
first Angolan San Conference on April 24th - 26th 2007. Not
only did this represent the first time the Angolan San met
with San people from Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa, it
was also the first time the Angolan San came together to
discuss the community's issues. Though no firm GRA
commitments of assistance were made, the conference was a
positive step towards creating public awareness and GRA
support for the basic human rights of a marginalized,
impoverished people. Above all, the conference was an
invaluable opportunity to start a dialogue within the San
community on development issues. End Summary.

Angolan San: Dreaming of a Better Life
2. (U) Representatives from the 3,500 San people in Angola,
the provincial governments of Huila, Cunene, and Kuando
Kubango, San communities from Namibia, Botswana and South
Africa, and national and international NGOs met in Lubango,
the capital of Huila Province, for the first-ever Angolan San
Conference on April 24-26th, 2007. The conference was
organized by the local NGO Christian Organization for Aid and
Community Development, and financed by groups including
Trocaire (the Irish-Catholic Charity and Development
Organization), the Dutch Development Organization (SNV), the
Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa
(WIMSA), and Terre des Hommes. The conference's first two
days were solely for the tri-country San communities, and the
third day was open to the public.

3. (U) The San opened the public conference with traditional
song, dance and a chant of their manifesto: "We are all
Angolans. We want the same rights as other Angolans. We
have the will to work and the strength to cultivate our
fields. We dream of a life without abuse. We want training
and respect for our leaders and our communities. We want to
be a part of Angola's future. We want schools, medical
clinics and legal protection of our lands. We want fair
wages for our labor and a good relationship with our Bantu
neighbors. We want the same assistance that others receive!"

4. (U) Recommendations from the conference include the
creation of a San Council and the development and training of
San leaders to advocate for the community's issues, such as
the key issues of land and water rights. Many San are now
day laborers on the same communal, ancestral territory their
ancestors once used for nomadic hunting and gathering. The
2004 Angolan land law allows for legal recognition and
titling of communal land, but regulations for the law have
never been published and titling procedures throughout the
country are on hold. In a positive step, a San community in
Huila received a provisional land use title and was presented
with the official documentation at the conference. However,
while the land title grants permission for use, it does not
convey ownership or the right to sell the land.

Forging Connections Among San People
5. (SBU) During closed sessions, Angolan San discussed with
each other and their Southern African kinsmen key issues
affecting their communities, such as hunger, conflicts
between the Angolan San and their Bantu neighbors over land
and water rights, and the lack of potable water, medical
clinics, and schools. San kinsmen in neighboring countries
were able to share their positive and negative experiences in
obtaining land rights, social services, and community
development while working to maintain San traditions,
culture, and language. This was the first-ever gathering of
Angolan San people from various provinces, and the first time
that many Angolan San had ever seen a city. A San
representative from Botswana told Poloff he was surprised by
how "behind" the Angolan San community is in terms of health,
standards of living, knowledge of their rights, and ability
to dialogue on community issues and visualize a different
future. He characterized the Angolan San community as living
at the same standard their kinsmen in neighboring countries
were at 20-30 years ago.
A History of Exclusion
6. (U) Background: An estimated 3,500 Angolan San live in
small communities scattered throughout the southern provinces
of Huila, Cunene, and Kuando Kubango. The San's historically
nomadic lifestyle made it easy for both expanding Bantu
tribes and Portuguese colonialists to exclude the San from
the country's political and social structure. Though San
communities settled into more fixed locations and adopted
agricultural production before independence, their history of

LUANDA 00000477 002 OF 002

extreme poverty, discrimination and social exclusion
continued through the civil war. Their history of communal
decision making leaves them without traditional leaders who
can address San issues with local Bantu chiefs (sobas) and
local government officials. The government-run newspaper
Jornal de Angola recently labeled the San as the "poorest of
the poor, even in a country as poor as Angola." Note:
Research in San communities found 39 percent child mortality
rates, 99 percent illiteracy, and extremely high levels of
food insecurity. End Note.

7. (U) The San people, sometimes called Khoison (which is the
linguistic designation for a family of click languages) or
Bushmen, are the indigenous people in parts of Angola,
Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa. Genetic evidence
suggests the San are one of the oldest peoples in the world.
End background.

8. (SBU) Comment: Though the Provincial Governments were
represented and a National Assembly deputy (also former
Minister of Culture) attended the conference, firm
commitments of government aid were not made. High-level
government attendance was notably absent; the Governor of
Huila was expected to open and close the conference, but sent
representatives instead. While the verbal recognition of San
rights shown by the GRA during the conference is a very
positive step, the legwork to actually protect those rights
will be done through the international community's support of
local NGOs for the foreseeable future. End Comment.

© Scoop Media

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