Date: Sun, 22 Mar 98 13:05:43 CST
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Rich Winkel)
Subject: CONGO-KINSHASA: Pygmies in Peril
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From: email@example.com (D.Jackson)
"Pygmies" in peril
Forest Peoples Programme Information Bulletin, 16 March 1998
"Pygmy" peoples in Eastern Congo-Kinshasa are caught up in the continuing polarisation and increasing violent conflicts between Hutu and Tutsi in the region bordering Rwanda and Burundi.
The indigenous peoples' organisation Programme d'Integration et de Developpement du Peuple Pygme au Kivu (PIDP-Kivu) has sent the following report on the situation of "Pygmies" living in the vicinity of the Kahuzi-Biega National Park:
The Bambuti "Pygmies" were the first inhabitants of the Kahuzi forest, which is situated in the Kabare district of South Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo, 25 km from the town of Bukavu. The Kahuzi-Biega forest was made a national park in 1970. The government of the time brutally evicted all the "Pygmies" living there, without compensation or resettlement on alternative lands. As a result, these unfortunate people came to live in the riverine villages around the park - Muyange, Cibuga, Combo, Kamakome, Mulangala, Tshibati, Lushasha, Buhama and Muziku.
Our province has welcomed thousands of Rwandan refugees. After the war of liberation of our country, some refugees were able to return home. However, the armed Rwandan militia (INTERAHAMWE) and the ex- army of the former Rwandan president Habyarimana (Forces Armes Rwandais (FAR)) established themselves in the interior of the Kahuzi-Biega forest. They are in alliance with the Mai-Mai, a movement determined to drive all Rwandans out of the Eastern Congo, targetting Tutsis in particular. The Mai-Mai object to the Congolese authorities' promotion of the long-term Tutsi residents of the Kivu area (known as Banyamulenge) to public office and high positions in provincial government. These armed groups have become bandits, pillaging and burning the huts of the "Pygmies" living around the park, and so forcing a massive displacement of "Pygmies" into the Bantu villages further away. More than 525 families have been forced out of their homes, and are facing very difficult conditions.
Some of the authorities have erroneously labelled the "Pygmies" as Mai-Mai, because they live close to the forest. We managed to get assistance from the International Red Cross Committee who provided food and materials for only 200 "Pygmy" families, before the military authorities halted the humanitarian assistance on the grounds that it was supporting the Mai-Mai. The Coordinator of PIDP-Kivu, Kapupu Diwa Mutimanwa, was arrested during the distribution of goods to the families under accusation of being the president of the Mai-Mai. The situation of some "Pygmy" families is very serious. We are therefore asking for urgent aid to support the displaced families, which should be channelled either PIDP-Kivu and other local organisations, or UNICEF, OXFAM and Save the Children. Other international agencies (UN High Commission for Refugees, CARITAS and the International Red Cross Committee) are no longer allowed access to the interior of the province.
Forest Peoples Programme/World Rainforest Movement UK Office