Last Updated: Friday, 19 September 2014, 13:55 GMT

State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009 - Democratic Republic of Congo

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 16 July 2009
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009 - Democratic Republic of Congo, 16 July 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4a66d9b92d.html [accessed 20 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Minorities in the DRC, particularly the Batwa, Bambuti and Babendielle groups, have been hugely affected by the ongoing instability of the country. Of particular concern were the Bambuti living in forest communities.

A local NGO, Programme d'Intégration et de Développement du Peuple Pygmée au Kivu (PIDP), which promotes and protects the rights of indigenous Batwa in North Kivu, South Kivu and Maniema provinces, said that the sexual violence, displacement and insecurity caused by the ongoing conflict in the DRC has particularly affected the Batwa/Bambuti community. PIDP described how the fighting between August and October 2008 in the capital city of the Rutshuru territory and in Kiwandja uprooted more than 120 Batwa/Bambuti families, and 20 of these families are still missing. NGOs working with the Batwa community have also been affected. In October 2008, the international NGO Care International was forced to suspend two major programmes in the DRC, including one in the Rutshuru territory in North Kivu that focused on marginalized populations including the Batwa.

Sexual violence has been widespread. Since 2005, more than 32,000 cases of rape and sexual violence have been registered in South Kivu alone, but numbers are certainly far higher as most attacks go unreported. In eastern DRC, Rose Mutombo and Immaculée Birhaheka are leading a campaign (Urgent Action Fund) for a women-specific agenda in conflict resolution efforts that have been going on for over a decade.

Indigenous communities also face challenges beyond the direct impact of the conflict. In April 2008, a report was submitted to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights by the Forest Peoples Programme and the Centre d'Accompagnement des Autochtones Pygmées et Minoritaires Vulnérables. The report outlines the 'systematic discrimination' experienced by such minorities. As a result of the DRC government's failure to demarcate their lands and territories, extractive industries, such as coltan, gold, timber and iron ore companies, have entered indigenous peoples' territories and caused many to abandon their land and traditional way of life, forcing them into poverty. The report also expresses concern over the World Bank and DRC government forestry reform programme that so far has failed to recognize or protect indigenous peoples' rights. On a more positive note, the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee (IPAAC) reported their support in 2008 for a project in eastern DRC in which local Batwa and Bambuti people were attempting to negotiate their rights with the Kahuzi Biega National Park, which covers some 600,000 hectares and is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO (making it a potentially important contributor DRC's economy). The park employed minority group members as trackers in conservation or anti-poaching units, but often failed to remunerate them properly or recognize their skills.

All children in the DRC lack access to education. A 2008 MRG report cites Department for International Development (DfID) statistics that fewer than 64 per cent of children overall are enrolled in primary school and the literacy rate is 62 per cent. While the government's Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) does not identify the Batwa as needing special support, the World Bank recognizes that the Batwa are among the most vulnerable groups when it comes to education. However there is as yet no government policy on education, let alone a specific policy for Batwa children.

UNICEF reported in November 2008 that thousands of schools in North Kivu province had been closed due to fighting; many of these schools were now occupied by displaced people. 'Rutshuru territory, in particular, has been a zone of conflict and we know that 85 per cent of schools in that territory have been closed for the last three weeks,' UNICEF Communications Specialist Jaya Murthy reported. 'That has halted the education for approximately 150,000 students.'

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