Saturday, September 14, 2013

DR Congo : The Bambuti ( pygmies ) are the latest victims.

DW ( Germany ) reports

Conflict forces DRC jungle dwellers to leave their traditional homes
In conflict regions in the DRC schools often serve as emergency accommodation for refugees, many of whom have left their traditional jungle homes. This can lead to problems with local residents.


It is early September and school should be resuming after the summer break. But tempers are running high in the town of Oicha in eastern DRC, some 70 kilometers (44 miles) from the border with Uganda. Around 60 refugees have found shelter in a primary school - much to the anger of the pupils. They are furious that classes cannot be held because of the newcomers who have fled from rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces-National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF-NALU).

One girl tells journalists from a local radio station that she and her fellow pupils will do all they can to make sure the newcomers leave again as quickly as they came. "We'll make sure these pygmies leave our classrooms," she declares. "Either we'll make a lot of noise or we'll throw stones."

Just imagine what they make of the insanity that is all too frequently the Eastern DR Congo. If this article is to be believed and I see no reason to doubt it, blaming the victims for the awful situation they are caught up in is now also the norm in the Eastern DR Congo.

The word 'pygmy' is commonly used to describe an ethnic group in eastern Congo who call themselves 'Bambuti.' They live in small settlements in the jungle of central Africa, living mostly from the animals and plants to be found there. Because of their simple style of living and their small stature, they are frequently the target of mockery and discrimination by other groups. This has been the case for generations, says Ulrich Delius of the Society for Threatened Peoples. And so an atmosphere of hostility is pretty much pre-programed should they find themselves having to live in close proximity to other Congolese, as is the case in Oicha.

How very sad.  From Wikipedia 

Bambuti societies have no ruling group or lineage, no overlying political organization, and little social structure. The Bambuti are an egalitarian society in which the band is the highest form of social organization. Leadership may be displayed for example on hunting treks. Men and women basically have equal power. Issues are discussed and decisions are made by consensus at fire camps; men and women engage in the conversations equivalently. If there is a disagreement, misdemeanor, or offense, then the offender may be banished, beaten or scorned.(in more recent times the practice is to remove the offender from the forest and have them work for private landowners for little to no pay.

Lack of understanding

Delius says many Congolese have no respect for the Bambuti, even though "they are an ethnic community who possess a high level of knowledge in their familiar habitat."

From the same Wikipedia entry.

The way of life of the Bambuti is threatened for various reasons. Their territory in the DRC has no legal protections, and the boundaries that each band claims are not formally established. Bambuti are no longer allowed to hunt large game. Due to deforestation, gold mining, and modern influences from plantations, agriculturalists, and efforts to conserve the forests, their food supply is threatened. There is also much civil unrest in the country.
In 2003, Sinafasi Makelo, a representative of Mbuti Pygmies, told the UN Forum on Indigenous Issues that during the Congo Civil War, his people were hunted down and eaten as though they were game animals. Both sides of the war regarded them as "subhuman" and some say their flesh can confer magical powers. Makelo asked the UN Security Council to recognize cannibalism as a crime against humanity and an act of genocide.

It would seem that the 21 century has now caught up and will soon overwhelm the Bambuti. When it inevitably does it will be worth reflecting on our own humanity  inhumanity. 

"But what can they do when they are forced to leave? They have to start again from zero," Delius said in an interview with DW. That is exactly what is happening now. Forests are cut down, appropriated by mining companies or invaded by rebels. The indigenous population are never consulted.

However in Oicha the refugees do have something to say. They vehemently defend themselves against the complaints from local residents. "We Bambuti are only in the town because of the war," said a representative of the group now living in the school. "But we have nothing to do with the war. Our home is in the forest." The Bambuti say they will leave the school if the authorities provide material for alternative accommodation. They also say they are surprised by the reaction of the people of Oicha.

Actually I am surprised as well. From a previous blog about Louise Baseme yet another victim of the brutality of the rebel groups ( M23 ). 

" One of those helping Baseme is Bernard Ntwimenyumusi. The 51-year old stands out from the crowd, not only because he is one of the few men in the camp, but also because of his close-shaved face and impeccably ironed orange dress shirt.
Ntwimenyumusi lives in Goma, far enough to avoid the sight of hungry children. But every morning, he calls a taxi-moto to drive him to Kanyarucinya, and confronts this painful reality.
"Every time I come, I see new faces," said Ntwimenyumusi. "Those who are arriving now die from hunger because they need to get stand behind those who have been here for a long time, and at some point the distribution stops before they get their turn."
In order to help the new arrivals, Ntwimenyumusi opened his home last month to several families seeking shelter. He currently houses more than 20 people, and shares his family's food reserves with them.
"When you are a parent, when you are a Congolese citizen, you can't do anything but give what you have to those who are less fortunate," said Ntwimenyumusi, who insists his neighbors do more than him by hosting up to 50 people in a single home."
For Ulrich Delius, it's a situation that pits two groups of victims against one another. He points out that many groups within the population are suffering; they are either treated badly by the authorities or they are the victims of violence perpetrated by either the authorities or by the army or rebel militias. "The stronger group then hits out at the weaker members of society," says Delius. The Bambuti are the weakest link in the chain.

Me only have one ambition, y'know. I only have one thing I really like to see happen. I like to see mankind live together - black, white, Chinese, everyone - that's all. "
Bob Marley
There is nothing I can add to that.

Seeking a solution

Experts estimate there are more than 20 different rebel groups active in DRC. Prominent in the headlines has been the M23 group which has occupied territory in North Kivu for more than a year. With their spectacular capture of the provincial capital Goma in November 2012, they forced the DRC government to enter into negotiations. International mediators were also involved but without so far finding a solution. Other militia groups are often forgotten, much to the dismay of Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni who would like to be rid of the problem on his border.

How bloody ironic is that. Museveni one of the men demanding Kinshasa comes to a political solution with M23 would like to see a military solution to this problem. I have no issue whatsoever with a military solution I just happen to think it should be applied to all the armed groups plaguing the DR Congo, including the ones he backs M23.

When African heads of state met in the Ugandan capital Kampala in early September to seek a solution to the M23 problem, Museveni drew their attention to the rebel group ADF-NALU. For years they have terrorised people on the Congolese side of the border. Many people also sought refuge in Ugandan schools. "These refugees are suffering," Museveni said and called on the international community for support.

Unfortunately that is very much the case the total displaced a month ago by the actions of the ADF-NALU was 66,000 people and climbing. 

In Oicha a Congolese Pygmy aid organisation is now trying to help. With help from the German emergency aid NGO "Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe", it is trying to organise material so that alternative shelters can be built for the refugees.

A very sad story.

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