Naya: the long road to collective land titling

Since 2002, the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission (CIJP) accompanies and advises communities from the Naya River Basin Community Council, which is situated between the departments of Cauca and Valle del Cauca, on issues of legal security, implementing precautionary measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), organisational strengthening and human rights training.

In 2001, the Naya communities witnessed what became known as the Naya massacre, carried out by paramilitaries from the Calima Block with the collusion of the “Batalla de Pichincha” Infantry Battalion No.8 of the Army’s Third Brigade, which left hundreds of people dead and disappeared[1] after the former commander of the Third Brigade gave the order to “clear the path”.[2] In response to these events and to “avoid further irreparable harm”, the IACHR issued precautionary protection measures to the afro-descendant Naya people.[3]

In photographs: The Naya river

Since then, the armed conflict has continued in the area. In 2011, CIJP denounced the murders of five afro-descendant people from the Naya river Community Council by the FARC.[4] In 2015, CIJP warned of a plot to assassinate the Council’s legal representative[5] and in 2016 it warned that Marine infantry were staging incursions into the collective territory, undermining the principle of distinction and the commitment to exercise perimeter control agreed to as part of IACHR’s precautionary measures.[6] Since the start of the peace negotiations between the Colombian Government and the FARC there have been no further reports of attacks by the guerrilla group in the area.

In photographs: The granting of land titles to Afro-Colombians in the Naya region begins

The cultural resilience which characterises the Nayan people has been demonstrated on many occasions. The most recent achievement was obtaining the collective title which recognises the collective land rights of the Naya river basin’s afro-descendant communities who have lived there since the 17th century.[7] After a legal battle which lasted over 16 years, at the beginning of 2016 they celebrated the handover of the collective title to 177,817 hectares of land[8] between Buenaventura and Lopez de Micay (Cauca) on the Pacific coast. These lands are home to 18,000 people living in 52 communities.[9] The Naya title is one of but a few successful and historical cases of land rights being legally recognised in Colombia.

In photographs: Land titling in Naya

The Afro-Nayeran people share their memory through music, which is a channel for speaking out as well as for building peace.


[1] The exact numbers of how many people were massacred are unknown, but it is estimated that over 200 hundred people died. Memoria y Dignidad: Masacre en Naya (Cauca), 10th y 12th April 2001; Verdad Abierta: Los cuatro días que estremecieron el Naya, 5 May 2009; In 2013, the State had only recognised 42 victims: Mujeres víctimas de la masacre del Naya, 15 November 2013
[2] Contagio Radio: Juana Bautista Angulo Hinestroza, 13 April 2011
[3] Corte Constitucional República de Colombia, Sentencia T-909/09, 7th December
[4] Verdad Abierta: Denuncian masacre de las Farc en el Naya, 12 May 2011
[5] CIJP: Plan para asesinar a Rodrigo Castillo, 8 July 2015; CIJP: Desapariciones, paramilitarismo y fumigaciones en el Naya, 6 August 2015
[6] CIJP: Presión psicológica a afronayeros, 18 March 2016; CIJP: Fuerza Publica vulnera principio de distinción en el territorio colectivo del Naya, hurto de información a líder comunitario perteneciente a Conpaz, 11 May 2016
[7] Contagio Radio: Tras 16 años de lucha las comunidades negras del Naya reciben título colectivo, 27 November 2015
[8] Ibíd.
[9] PBI Colombia: Gran Asamblea de titulación colectiva, March 2016

Leave a Reply