The silent genocide of Pygmies in central Africa

Tuesday, 6 April 2004

Rome (Fides Service) - In the heart of Africa a people is in danger of extinction. A silent genocide against the Pygmies, one of the oldest peoples of Africa, has been going on for decades. There are Pygmies in Rwanda (41,000), Burundi (45,000), Uganda (2,100), and the Democratic Republic of Congo (2,000). When the Virunga National Park was created in 1925 in what is today the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Pygmies were sent away from their lands and deprived of their only means of subsistence, hunting and fruit picking. This process continued for decades. In 1970 they were expelled from other National Parks Kahuzi-Biega (D. Congo) and Bwindi and Mgahinga (Uganda). In Rwanda and Burundi Pygmies were chased away to make room for plantations. Pygmies expelled from their land are completely dependent on others and have to beg to live. Many seek refuge in alcohol or commit suicide.
Pygmies considered inferior by other tribes are condemned to be excluded from social life. They live under primitive conditions, in bamboo huts with roofs of banana leaves, without medical care, or education, struggling to earn a living by making clothes sold for a mere pittance 1 US dollar. Their territory is isolated from the rest of the country and they have no idea how to cultivate the land. Without identity papers, they have no access to medical care or assistance from state offices or officials.
During the genocide in Rwanda 1994 Pygmies were also victims of violence. It is estimated that the percentage of Pygmy population killed was 30%, this is the highest percentage of an ethnic group killed in Rwanda. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 6/4/2004, righe 24 parole 296)