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UN Representative Visits Brazil to Investigate Indigenous and Black Genocides

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The United Nations’ special advisor for the prevention of genocide, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, arrived in Brazil on May 2 to investigate the ongoing violence against Indigenous peoples and the Afro-Brazilian community. Her mission extends until May 12, and the investigation was announced by NINJA, a Brazilian media outlet.

Nderitu’s arrival comes amid growing concern over the situation of indigenous peoples in Brazil. Last year, according to the report of the Indigenous Missionary Council (Cimi), 176 murders of Indigenous people were recorded in the country. The Articulation of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil (Apib) has also accused the Brazilian government of genocide.

The size and history of the Indigenous and Afro-Brazilian quilombo populations are essential to understanding the violence they face today. Indigenous peoples in Brazil are estimated to number around 900,000, belonging to over 300 different ethnic groups. The Afro-Brazilian quilombo communities, descended from escaped slaves, number in the thousands. In addition, the Pastoral Land Commission reported that there were 47 deaths in conflicts in the field in 2021, including 18 indigenous people.

Nderitu emphasized the importance of understanding the historical context of the violence faced by these communities. “When you talk about genocide or ethnic cleansing, it’s not something that happens overnight,” she said. “It’s something that happens over time, and it has a history.”

Nderitu also drew attention to the devastating impact of Brazil’s racist history on the mental health of its citizens. In a press conference, she spoke about the phenomenon of “suicídio,” or suicide, among Black Brazilians. “It’s a word that we have to be very careful with because it has a very specific connotation in Portuguese, but it’s basically the idea that you don’t see a future for yourself,” she explained. “You don’t see a future where you can thrive, where you can be happy, where you can be healthy.”

She added that this feeling is not unique to Brazil but that the country’s history of slavery and racism has exacerbated the problem. “This is not just a Brazilian issue, but it’s something that is very much rooted in the history of this country and the legacy of colonialism,” she said.

For Paulo Abrão, the former executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Nderitu’s visit represents a vital opportunity to listen to social movements and better understand the situation in Brazil. “It’s crucial that she hears from the communities themselves, as well as from civil society organizations and other actors who have been working on these issues,” he said.

The Brazilian government has faced criticism from both domestic and international organizations for its handling of the situation faced by Indigenous peoples and Afro-Brazilian communities. Nderitu’s investigation will provide an opportunity to shed light on the ongoing violence and help to develop strategies to address the root causes of these issues. As Nderitu herself noted, “It’s important to understand the context and the history, and also to look at the future and what can be done to improve the situation.”

Her mission in Brazil represents an essential step towards addressing the ongoing violence against marginalized communities and promoting a more just and equitable society for all Brazilians.

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