DRC: MRG's Head of Law visits Batwa communities

The Batwa of South Kivu, DRC, have lived in an area now called Kahuzi-Biega National Park (PNKB) since time immemorial. In 1937, a law was passed creating a nature reserve in the area, but the Batwa were allowed to remain in the forest. However, in 1970, a further law was passed creating the PNKB, at the proposal of the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature, which led to their eviction. In 1975, the PNKB area was extended from 60,000 to 600,000 hectares, and the Batwa were evicted from their ancestral homes and traditional livelihoods in the forest, without compensation. Some non-Batwa have been allowed to remain in the park, or were evicted and compensated. 

Lucy Claridge, MRG’s Head of Law, travelled to DRC to meet Batwa and better understand their situation, with a view to starting a case before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Working with local civil society organisation Environnement et Ressources Naturelles de Developpement and Rainforest Foundation Norway, Lucy attended six meetings with the now-scattered Batwa community. Some were based in extremely remote locations and each day presented a new set of challenges that hindered her travels. The main thing that struck her was the appalling poverty which all community members faced. .

Gallery

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Women and children gather to meet Lucy at Kahungu in Kabare, South Kivu and learn more about taking a case to the African Commission
 MRG-GAL-3600
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Non-Batwa communities are allowed to live in Kahuzi-Beiga National Park, where they cut down trees to produce and sell charcoal and conduct farming. Batwa communities live in harmony with the forest and don't destroy it, yet were evicted from their homes as a result of entrenched marginalisation
 MRG-GAL-3603
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The MRG, ERND and RFN team in ERND's office together with a 3D map detailing Batwa ancestral land and resources
 MRG-GAL-3611
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Community meeting at Bitale, South Kivu
 MRG-GAL-3613
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Batwa women at Bitale community meeting
 MRG-GAL-3614
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Batwa women at Bitale community meeting
 MRG-GAL-3615
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Bitale community meeting
 MRG-GAL-3616
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Batwa woman from Buyungule, who was evicted from from Kahuzi-Biega as a child. She has had 14 children, although only 8 of them have survived
 MRG-GAL-3617
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Children in Buyungule. All of the children were desperate for empty water bottles to use as toys. The majority lacked basic education and health facilities, let alone simple toys or books
 MRG-GAL-3618
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One of the Batwa male elders with his elderly mother, who is already a great-grandmother
 MRG-GAL-3619
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Crossing Lake Kivu to Idjwi island by (comparatively luxurious) ferry, Lucy passed this basic boat overloaded with people doing the same. During Lucy's visit, a similar boat had capsized and many people had drowned. Lucy could only hope that these people would make it
 MRG-GAL-3622
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Stuck in the mud on the way to Mirenzo. The road was in extremely poor condition and very difficult to pass at points, and this was out of rainy season
 MRG-GAL-3623
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Batwa woman from Mushunguti. Evicted from the park as a child, she now has many grandchildren, all living in poverty and in a very remote location near Mirenzo
 MRG-GAL-3627
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The sign outside the Chief of the Director General de Migration (DGM)
 MRG-GAL-3628
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View from 1.5 hour hike up the mountain to the meeting in Mirenzo
 MRG-GAL-6470
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Date: 03/09/2015

Countries:

Democratic Republic of Congo

Categories:

Humanitarian/Development
Poverty
Racism/Discrimination/Hate speech
Indigenous Peoples
Refugees/Displacement/Migrants
Natural resources

Press Contact Information

Name: Lucy Claridge

Telephone: +44 (0)207 4224223

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