AFRICA/BURUNDI - The 'untouchables' of Burundi still waiting for full integration

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Gitega (Agenzia Fides) - Without identity documents and with high rates of illiteracy, the Pygmies of Burundi live marginalized in a Country where they are the poorest of the poor. This is the first ethnic group that populated Burundi and today represents only 1% of the more than 9 million people, mostly Tutsis and Hutus. "They have a lot in common with the 'untouchables' of India and the gypsies in Europe, they live isolated and despised by others, even if they are used to it and consider it normal", says Father Bernard Lesay, an 82-year-old religious who has been in contact with the pygmies since 1999, when he began to work with the Acción Batwa organization, established by the Missionaries of Africa with the objective to accompany this ethnic group in their daily difficulties and promote their integration.
In Carire, one of the villages in the province of Gitega, the Catholic NGO Manos Unidas has funded 44 houses for pygmies who face the same problems as the rest of the Country: social rejection, low level of schooling and food shortages. Some of them retain primitive facial features and short stature, many others have the same appearance of the inhabitants of Burundi who, despite progress, continue to marginalize this group and give them all the negative stereotypes of society. Because of their nomadic lifestyle and their isolation, many pygmies in Burundi are not registered. Others, however, have been able to improve their living conditions with the help of organizations and religious congregations like the Apostles of the Good Shepherd and the Queen of the Last Supper, that with Catholic priests run an internship with over a hundred pupils and a training center near Gitega. Here the young pygmy interact with children from other ethnic groups and learn basics of carpentry and textile industry. (AP) (Agenzia Fides 08/07/2014)