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Pygmies – The Most Ancient and Endangered Peoples


Pointed out as inferior – not only in height, since they are tall maximum 1 and a half meters – enslaved, killed for their flesh by the legendary magical powers. The Pygmies of the Congolese reserves are among the last “primitive” peoples in the world: armed with bows and arrows, they live on hunting and fishing, in the midst of the crossfire of the civil war.

Their uncontaminated world and way of living, however, could soon end. That’s because of the attacks of lumberjacks and poachers, the reprisals of the rebels, but also of the regular army.

The Silent Genocide of the Pygmies of Central Africa

A tribe at risk of extinction, a silent genocide in the heart of Africa. This is what has been going on for decades with regard to the Pygmies, one of the oldest populations in Africa. Most of the Pygmies live between Rwanda (41,000 people) and Burundi (45,000), but there are also minorities in Uganda (2100) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (2,000).

Since the creation in 1925 of the Virunga National Park, in the current Democratic Republic of Congo, the Pygmies have begun to be removed from their native lands. This process has continued for decades, depriving them of their livelihoods – that is, hunting and fruit picking. In 1970, the Pygmies were expelled from the Kahuzi-Biega National Park (D.R.Congo), then from the Bwindi and Mgahinga National Parks (Uganda). In Rwanda and Burundi, the Pygmies were hunted down to make room for crops.

The Exclusion from Society

Expelled from their territory and deprived of the possibility to sustain themselves, the Pygmies became completely dependent on the other populations and were forced to beg in order to survive. Many of them began to engage in alcoholism, while others even committed suicide.

Pygmies are considered inferior by other populations and continuously marginalized by social life. They live in primitive conditions, in bamboo huts covered with banana leaves, without medical care or education, trying to survive by manufacturing vases sold at a derisory price – which is equivalent to 1 dollar. Their territory is isolated from the rest of the country, and they are not able to cultivate the land. They have no identity cards, which is why they are not entitled to medical treatment, and there are no government officials or government offices responsible for dealing with their situation.

During the Rwandan genocide in 1994, the Pygmies were also victims of violence. It is estimated that 30% of the Pygmy population was killed – the largest percentage of any ethnic group in Rwanda.

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