Over 4000 indigenous people were victims of displacement amid violence across Colombia during the first five months of 2014, the United Nations (UN), local media reported on Tuesday.
In their most recent humanitarian affairs report, Colombia’s United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the in the five months to May 2014, ten cases of mass displacements resulting in 4,500 indigenous people from five different states were forced to leave their homes.
The report said that cultural and physical extinction was a real risk for the affected communities (Awa, Embera, Eparara Siapidara, Nasa and Nukak). These communities are part of the 35 indigenous groups recognized by the Constitutional Court of Colombia as being in danger of extinction.
|“What happens is that people who have lived within their native communities for many years are affected by these mining projects, and are moving to the city, where their culture and language is lost.”|
Over 2000 displaced in Choco alone
The most disconcerting case of indigenous displacement is of Embera-Dobida community in Colombia’s state of Choco. According to the report, there have been registered 2,034 cases of displacement in this community alone.
The Choco region is of strategic importance to the country’s armed groups, due to its access to coastal drug routes and a low state presence, which allows for widespread coca cultivation and illegal mining operations to go on largely unmolested.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) who provided assistance to 3,000 displaced people in Choco in May, came in response to local distress warnings in the state in question, where a series of confrontations between ELN, Colombia’s second largest group and neo-paramilitary group “Los Urabeños.”
“The threats and confrontations between non-state armed groups and armed forces are the most frequent cause of these displacements. In many cases, these conflicts are due to the highly strategic nature of the indigenous territories, where non- state armed groups frequently create a permanent presence to protect coca crops or drug- and arms-trafficking corridors. “the report explains.
Risk of extinction
Conflict is not the singular problem indigenous communities confront with. According to the OCHA report, the indigenous are subject to institutional abandonment, confinement, severe discrimination and poverty and victims of the illegal and large mining and agro-industrial projects.
The mining operations across the country represent the biggest threat to the indigenous communities as it is the main cause of their extinction, according to UN representative Todd Howland.
“What happens is that people who have lived within their native communities for many years are affected by these mining projects, and are moving to the city, where their culture and language is lost,” said Howland, quoted by Caracol Radio.
According to a report released last year by the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), 62.70% of the country’s indigenous population is at risk of extinction.
Colombia is home to approximately 1,420,000 indigenous peoples, according to ONIC.
- Monthly Humanitarian Aid (OCHA May report )
- Minería causa de riesgo de extinción de pueblos indígenas en Colombia: ONU (Caracol Radio)