World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Central African Republic : Aka
|Publisher||Minority Rights Group International|
|Cite as||Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Central African Republic : Aka, 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/49749d40c.html [accessed 29 January 2015]|
There are various groups of 'pygmy' peoples in the CAR, the largest of which are the BaAka, who number an estimated 8,000-20,000 and speak a Bantu language. BaAka people live largely nomadic lives in the forested areas of the south-west, gaining livelihoods through hunting and gathering; local residents and traders regularly buy meat and other produce from them.
Historically, the BaAka have suffered deep discrimination, regarded as inferiors by other ethnic groups. In some zones, BaAka men sell their labour to local residents and to forest industries. Socially subordinated, they are paid less than others for the same work. BaAka social bonds are disintegrating; health problems, including alcoholism, malaria, HIV/AIDS and diseases of the respiratory tract, are increasing. Literacy levels, low throughout the country, are negligible. Formal schooling offers no means to learn their history and culture. Their cultural survival is severely threatened. As with similar peoples elsewhere in Central Africa, outsiders have tried to turn BaAka to settled farming. The government has left 'integration' efforts to Catholic missionaries, who have established 'pilot villages'. Other mission efforts, such as in schooling, have failed to retain pupils, as BaAka families keep moving in the forests. For most, defence is a matter of always being able to move away from difficulties. Their future as a distinct cultural group depends greatly on the vulnerable forest ecology. Here as in Congo and Gabon, those forests are under great pressure from rapacious and mainly illegal logging. In deals made between the timber companies and government agents, BaAka people have no voice.
UNESCO which has recognised the unique polyphonic musical traditions of the Aka, warns that "the scarcity of game resulting from deforestation, the rural exodus and the folklorization of their heritage for the tourist industry are the principal factors contributing to the gradual disappearance of many of their traditional customs, rituals and skills." Illegal logging presents a huge problem for the Aka: even when logging is supposed to be State-controlled, and conservation measures are in place, there are difficulties. In a November 2007 report, the Forest Peoples Programme reports that in the Dzanga Protected Area Complex, where the Aka have some limited rights to hunt and pursue a traditional life-style, that the younger generation is losing its forest knowledge, as development opportunities increase, and the trend towards sedentarisation takes hold. In all walks of life, the Aka still face deep-seated discrimination from other communities in the Central African Republic.