Feb 08, 2011

UNPO UN Report Outlines Severe Hardship Faced by Batwa in Rwanda

UNPO has submitted an Alternative Report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination ahead of Rwanda's examination in March 2011. The report, the only NGO report submitted to  the Treaty Body monitoring committee underlines the severe marginalisation the Batwa face from economic, social and political opportunities in the country.

The Batwa, indigenous to the Great Lakes region of Africa suffer from severe impoverishment and exceptionally low socio-economic and health indicators and are almost entirely absent from grassroots, regional or national governing structures. They also suffer from casual but deeply damaging discrimination, based on a common and largely unpunished perception of the Batwa being “backwards”, unintelligent or lazy which in turn perpetuates their social exclusion. 

These factors are exacerbated by the government’s policy of failing to acknowledge the Batwa as a distinct ethnic group who have distinct challenges, the solutions to which are also distinct.  The Batwa are largely sidelined from or face challenges to participating in local decision-making procedures. In addition, they have been dispossessed of their land and have been offered little compensation in comparison to other previously disenfranchised citizens, and moreover, they face challenges in creating support networks that directly focus on the Batwa unlike other vulnerable groups. Recent developments in the country have seen hundreds of Batwa communities rendered homeless by government policies to get rid of thatched housing from the Rwandan landscape. 

The report makes a series of recommendations which will be posited to the visiting delegation on March 3rd and 4th in Geneva. They include: 

- permitting the Batwa to self-identify as indigenous to Rwanda, and allowing them to form societies and organizations under that name

- ensuring that the data  collected by monitoring development projects by ethnicity is thoroughly disaggregated by ethnicity to ensure the Batwa are not sidelined from poverty reduction projects 

- ensuring local government officials are accountable for their actions, especially if found to be discriminating against Batwa communities

- Creating dedicated grant systems much as already in place for other vulnerable groups to encourage more Batwa to finish primary, secondary and tertiary education

- Ensuring Batwa are consulted prior to decisions being taken about their land and homes, and provided with full compensation if they decide to take part in schemes 

The full report can be downloaded here. UNPO will be in Geneva in March to attend the review.