Jul 23, 2004

Batwa: Statement at the WGIP

Statement by Charles Uwiragiye, Premiere Fondation de la Nation
Untitled Document
Those of you, who had the chance to attend and participate at the Working Group in the past 22 years, please accept my complementary note of acknowledgement. Your contributions have proven to be strong blocks on which the foundation of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues is based.

I represent the Batwa Pygmies from Rwanda, a Member of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples
Orzanization (UNPO) and a Mem0ber of the Friends of the People Close to Nature (FPCN).

The armed conflicts in the Great Lakes Region in Africa, add a pain to the abscess. It is beyond human imagination. It is absurdity and the world is simply watching. It seems we have become a delicious dish for the cannibals, and only few individuals and institutions pay attention. What has the UN institutions done to stop the situation and invest resources to hold the wrong doers accountable?

During the 94 presentations I gave in the past years, I underscored the deadly continuation of bloodshed in the region. We know the UN is able, and has the resources to stop all these conflicts in my region; conflicts that consume our lives and cultural resources. The conflicts destroy our ancestral heritages as well as our sacred and cultural ties, traditional and related knowledge disappears.
When two elephants fight, the grass suffers. May I bring to your attention that the most recent forced migration of the Batwa Indigenous People from the lower altitude of the Volcano range, in the northern region of Rwanda, was because of the increasing attacks of militia and EX-FAR insurgency from RDC?

My fellow Batwa representative from Burundi may mention the deadly and brutal acts of human rights violations Bujumbura. They shelled mortars on a completed shelter site, destroying the structures without mercy. These shelters were built for and provided to Batwa in Burundi by CARE
International. They are now ruins, and the international community calls it a conflict between the Tutsi
And Hutu. In Rwanda the war and genocide caused a loss of many lives including those rarely mentioned Batwa. There is no mention of Batwa among other survivors to benefit from the Survivors'
Fund. These kind of confusing maneuvers need to be re-addressed.

The conflict is ignited by socio-economic differences between the Batwa and other social groups. The
Batwa do not possess land and over 99% of the population is illiterate. They are harassed by the
Public. Thus their human dignity is not respected at all. This situation has caused other negative effects. Some NGOs and institutions take advantage of absolute poverty to create physical conflict, not only amidst the Indigenous Batwa but also among Indigenous NGOs.

In conclusion Mr. Chairman, if there would be a question as to what is the main barrier to effect approaches for the problem of achieving our objectives as far as human rights are concerned, my one response would be fear. We are in such a dire struggle us versus them, us versus a competitor, which stops people from understanding what indigenous peoples should accomplish in the arena of human rights. People should think of grand vision of human rights advocacy as a struggle, not as a cooperative enterprise.

I recommend therefore:

- Government takes the initiative to educate Rwandans about human rights
- Request the government to respect our cultural and traditional knowledge

Charles R.Uwiragiye
Premiere Fondation de la Nation (PFN)
E-mail: [email protected]