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The indigenous people of Africa are those people of Africa whose way of life, attachment or claims to particular lands, and social and political standing in relation to other more dominant groups have resulted in their substantial marginalization within modern African states (namely "politically underprivileged group who have been an ethnic entity in the locality before the present ruling nation took over power").
Although the vast majority of Native Africans can be considered to be "indigenous" in the sense that they have originated from that continent and nowhere else, identity as an "indigenous people" is in modern application more restrictive. Not every African ethnic group claims identification under these terms. Groups and communities who do claim this recognition are those who by a variety of historical and environmental circumstances have been placed outside of the dominant state systems. Their traditional practices and land claims often have come into conflict with the objectives and policies promulgated by governments, companies and surrounding dominant societies.
Marginalization, along with the desire to recognize and protect their collective and human rights, and to maintain the continuity of their individual cultures, has led many to seek identification as indigenous peoples, in the contemporary global sense of the term.
In the post-colonial period, the concept of specific indigenous peoples within the African continent has gained wider acceptance, although not without controversy. The highly-diverse and numerous ethnic groups which comprise most modern, independent African states contain within them various peoples whose situation, cultures and pastoralist or hunter-gatherer lifestyles are generally marginalized and set apart from the dominant political and economic structures of the nation. Since the late 20th century these peoples have increasingly sought recognition of their rights as distinct indigenous peoples, in both national and international contexts.
The Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee (IPACC) was founded in 1997. It is one of the main trans-national network organizations recognized as a representative of African indigenous peoples in dialogues with governments and bodies such as the UN. In 2008, IPACC was composed of 150 member organisations in 21 African countries. IPACC identifies several key characteristics associated with indigenous claims in Africa:
With respect to concerns that identifying some groups and not others as indigenous is in itself discriminatory, IPACC states that it:
At an African inter-governmental level, the examination of indigenous rights and concerns is pursued by a sub-commission established under the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR), sponsored by the African Union (AU) (successor body to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU)). In late 2003 the 53 signatory states of the ACHPR adopted the Report of the African Commission's Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities and its recommendations. This report says in part (p. 62):
The adoption of this report at least notionally subscribed the signatories to the concepts and aims of furthering the identity and rights of African indigenous peoples. The extent to which individual states are mobilizing to put these recommendations into practice varies enormously, however. Most indigenous groups continue to agitate for improvements in the areas of land rights, use of natural resources, protection of environment and culture, political recognition and freedom from discrimination.
On 30 December 2010, the Republic of Congo adopted a law for the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples. This law is the first of its kind in Africa, and its adoption is a historic development for indigenous peoples on the continent.