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Namibia 2023

The right to freedom of peaceful assembly was further threatened. The sanitation crisis continued and acute food insecurity increased. A court judgment recognized the rights of some same-sex couples. Indigenous Peoples were denied rights to participate in talks about reparations. The right to a healthy environment was threatened.

Freedom of peaceful assembly

Protesters defied a high court ruling denying permission for a youth protest against unemployment, in the capital, Windhoek, in March. Police arrested several activists and politicians for their involvement after they gathered at the Katutura Youth Centre for the demonstration. They included social justice activists Michael Amushelelo and Dimbulukeni Nauyoma, and parliamentarian Inna Hengari.

Right to health

There was a severe sanitation crisis. In May, a Center for Collaborative Investigative Journalism report said 50% of the population did not have access to safe and hygienic toilets. The crisis was most acute in informal settlements, where as many as 90% of residents lacked adequate access to toilets and were forced to resort to defecation outside, resulting in environmental contamination and the rapid spread of diseases like cholera, typhoid and debilitating diarrhoea.

Right to food

Between July and September, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification reported that acute food insecurity rose sharply, affecting 22% of the population (579,000 people compared to 350,000 in 2022). The surge was attributed to severe drought, diminished crop and livestock yields, soaring food prices, the economic downturn and high unemployment rates.


LGBTI people’s rights

In February, a supreme court ruling recognized the right of spouses of Namibian citizens to regularize their immigration status based on same-sex marriages concluded outside the country, overturning an earlier high court judgment. In July, however, parliament passed legislation banning same-sex marriages. If enacted, it could remove the right of same-sex couples to have their marriages recognized, even if those marriages are performed in accordance with the law of another country. This could nullify the February judgment, in line with Article 81 of the constitution, which provides for the reversal of a supreme court decision if it is “contradicted by an Act of Parliament lawfully enacted”.

Indigenous Peoples’ rights

In February, seven UN Special Rapporteurs raised concerns regarding the government’s alleged failure to ensure the meaningful participation of the Indigenous Nama and Ovaherero Peoples in reparations negotiations, and the lack of effective reparative measures afforded to them. The Nama and Ovaherero Peoples were victims of genocide by Germany’s colonial rule. Germany acknowledged responsibility in 2015 but refused to provide direct reparations to victims, committing rather to financing development projects. The Special Rapporteurs said both governments had allowed insufficient consultation and information-sharing, which hindered the affected communities’ ability to contribute to the terms of the reparations agreement.

Right to a healthy environment

In April, the minister of environment heard appeals regarding Canadian-based oil company ReconAfrica. In one appeal, community organizations in Kavango East and West regions claimed ReconAfrica had not adequately consulted with them on its drilling activities, had provided insufficient information on environmental and social impacts, and had failed to obtain their free, prior and informed consent for the work. ReconAfrica counter-claimed the allegations, asserting that it had consulted with, and obtained consent from, the communities. In September, a parliamentary investigation reportedly revealed that the company had violated national laws.