The Batwa community in Rwanda received a setback in 2007. Following a long-running dispute with the government, the main Batwa organization, the Community of Indigenous People of Rwanda (CAURWA), was forced to change its name as the government refused to renew its charity licence until it had dropped the word 'indigenous' from its title.

Since the 1994 genocide, when the ruling elite of the majority Hutu group stoked up murderous hatred against minority Tutsis, ethnicity has been a difficult and sensitive area in Rwanda. The Rwandan government has prohibited identification along ethnic lines. Setting the overriding goal as reconciliation, an official from the Ministry of Justice told IRIN in 2006 that 'ethnic divisions have only caused conflicts between the peoples of the country'.

However, for the marginalized Batwa community – historically discriminated against by both Hutus and Tutsis – recognition of its distinct identity has been extremely important. Without it, it will be extremely hard to tackle the multiple forms of discrimination this small group – estimated at 33,000 – faces, or to maintain what remains of their rich and distinctive cultural traditions. Batwa too suffered in the genocide – it is estimated that a third of their community was wiped out.

However, even before that, the Batwa had seen their ancestral forests cleared. Some were able to survive but many had become landless beggars, whose traditional forests were taken over for agriculture, commercial forestry plantations and wildlife conservation areas. When it comes to education, health and other social services, Batwa fare worse than either Hutus or Tutsis. As the NGO Forest Peoples Programme notes in a 2006 submission to the Human Rights Committee, the protection of many of the Batwa's human rights is recognized neither 'by law [n]or in fact'.

When the African Peer Review Panel looked at the situation in Rwanda, its 2005 report concluded that the Rwandan authorities appear to be adopting a policy of assimilation. This was vehemently denied by Kigali. In its 2007 report to the African Commission, Rwanda once again resisted the use of the term 'indigenous' saying 'Rwanda is not a country where native populations can be identified in the Western meaning of the term', noting instead that, as the national programme against poverty was targeted at the poorest, then communities that have been 'historically marginalized' would be the first to benefit.

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