Apr 21, 2016

Batwa: Just One of Many Minority Groups Whose Livelihood and Culture are Sacrificed on the Altar of ‘Development’

Photo Courtesy of: Wikimedia 2007

According to a report by Minority Rights Group International (MRG), minority groups in particular fall victim to the disastrous effects of large-scale, top-down ‘development’ projects, such as dam construction or resource exploitation. The Twa population of Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda is but one example of a marginalized group whose ancestral lands are time and again seized and appropriated by outsiders, thereby effectively destroying their livelihood, culture and identity as a people.


Below is an article by the AllAfrica:

According to the Minority Rights Group International (MRG), marginalised groups around the world have been adversely affected by exploitation of the resources on their ancestral lands.

Many have been driven off their land to pave the way for development projects such as logging, dams, large-scale agriculture, oil and mineral extraction.

In Burundi, for example, the MRG notes in its 2008 World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples, the government does not recognise the distinct ethnicity of the Batwa forest tribes.

However, in its 2005 Constitution, it set aside three seats in the National Assembly and three in the Senate for the forest tribe, also known as the Twa.

"Nonetheless, the group is still mostly landless and are among the poorest people in what is a very poor country," the report notes. "In testimonies gathered by MRG in Burundi in 2007, Batwa complained of many difficulties relating to land rights, either through lack of title, discriminatory practises relating to allocation on the part of the authorities, or failure to recognise historical rights to land."

There are between 30,000 and 40,000 Batwa living in Burundi. Across the region, their estimated total population is between 86,000 and 112,000, as they also live in Rwanda, Uganda and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

In the MRG State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2012 report, the former chair of the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Vital Bambanze, wrote: "One of the overriding threats facing minorities and indigenous peoples in every region of the world is the risk of being driven from their land and natural resources, which are vital for their livelihoods, their culture and often their identity as a people."

Bambanze, a member the Batwa minority community in Burundi, added: "Many communities have been closely tied to their territory for centuries. Yet once their land is targeted for development -- mining, oil and gas, dams, agribusiness, tourism or conservation -- they are swiftly and often violently evicted with little or no compensation."

According to MRG in its State of the World's Minorities 2007 report, ethnic or sectarian tensions involving marginalised groups are common across the globe, and in some places, they have boiled over into bitter violence.

For example, the Middle East situation continues to deteriorate -- with some minority communities fearing for their very survival.

In Latin America, people of African origin and indigenous women remain virtually invisible in public and political life. According to MRG, minority and indigenous women have continued to face violence and discrimination, stemming both from their identity as women and as members of disadvantaged minority groups.

In Europe, the spotlight has fallen on Muslim minorities -- with rows flaring over the Danish cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammad, and the wearing of the veil and burqa.

In Africa, the crisis in Darfur is deepening, as government-sponsored militia continue to carry out massive human rights abuses against traditional farming communities.

The 2007 MRG report suggests that "Now more than ever, world leaders must insist that the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples be respected. The participation of minorities is essential if conflict is to be prevented and lasting peace built."