Border communities and indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples, often pastoral or hunter-gatherer communities, whose cultures and customs differ drastically from the dominant society, represent some of the most vulnerable groups in Africa. Since some governments do not consider these people part of their nation, and it is not clear whether those that are border communities belong to any one nation, these groups are often stripped of their citizenship rights – facing harsh discrimination, the dispossession of their land, the destruction of their livelihood, cultures, and identities, the prevention from participating in politics, and the lack of access to basic government services such as education and health facilities. These marginalized, excluded groups, who are regarded as less developed and less advanced, are easy targets for government abuse.
Indigenous peoples must be allowed to survive as a people and continue their way of life through access to their traditional land and natural resources. Although international laws, such as the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and international organizations such as the UN protect the rights of indigenous peoples discrimination remains widespread.
The indigenous group named the Batwa (Twa), also known as the Pygmies, is an example of a community that has been discriminated against throughout Africa. The Batwa have traditionally been a hunter-gatherer forest people who inhabit much of the Great Lakes region of Africa, with significant minority populations in Burundi, Rwanda, the DRC, and Uganda. Unfortunately, the rights of the Batwa have been violated in all of these countries – they are often stripped of their land and forced to abandon much of their cultural identity, excluded from normal dealings with other ethnic groups.
The Banyamulenge, a pastoralist indigenous group living in the South Kivu province of the DRC, unlike the Batwa, have been at the center of political tensions and war in the country for years. Starting in the 1960’s, through the present, these peoples have been displaced, massacred, and even temporarily stripped of their DRC citizenship in 1995, due to both ethnic and political conflict.
More information can be found here:
Indigenous Peoples in Africa: The Forgotten Peoples? African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, 2006.
DITSHWANELO – The Botswana Centre for Human Rights – Chapter 2 on the Basarwa/San, 3-6 March 2006.
Doctrines of Dispossession – Racism against Indigenous Peoples,
World Conference Against Racism, 2001.
Racism against Indigenous Peoples, Discrimination against the Forest People of Central Africa, Chapter 9, by Justin Kenrick and Jerome Lewis, 2001.
Persistent and Pervasive Racial Discrimination against Indigenous Peoples in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a submission by Congolese NGOs to the Commission on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, 21 January 2007."
Indigenous Peoples Lament Exclusion, by John Nyamu, Africa Recovery, June 2003.
Other articles on Indigenous Peoples, particularly the Batwa, may also be found on the IRIN website.
DRC: Banyamulenge Seeking Political Solution to Tensions, IRIN, 3 August 2007.
DRC: Calm Returns after anti-Banyamulenge Demo, IRIN, 2 August 2007.
The Banyamulenge Tutsi, The Cultural Orientation Resource Center, February 2007.