mediacongo.net – News – South Kivu: Pygmies, a minority victim of violence in Kahuzi-Biega National Park

According to the NGO Minority Rights Group (MRG), Kahuzi-Biega National Park guards and Congolese army soldiers are responsible for the violence against the Batwa.

It is in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo that the hills of the Kahuzi-Biega National Park are located. The park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980, with the largest donor being the German federal government. It is home to the last remaining eastern lowland gorillas, as well as the native Batwa. But since 2019, this minority has become the target of targeted attacks. The Minority Rights NGO Group (MRG) investigated the violence and released a nearly 100-page report on April 6 that featured park guards and Congolese army soldiers. They will be held responsible for the killings, rapes and forcible displacement of the Batwa.

attacks

Kibibi Kaloba, 30, lives with her children on the site of a hospital under construction, a few kilometers from the border of Kahuzi-Biega National Park. She is one of about 200 Batwa who have been living in this makeshift camp for several months now.

In November 2021, Kibibi Kaloba’s life changed. She was working in her field when she learned that her village of Bugamande was under attack. Worried about her five children, she quickly returned home.

“My house has already burned down. I took a stick and dug in the ashes, then I saw in it the skull of one of my children, ”she said. Her two children, 4 and 5 years old, burned down in the house. The attackers blocked the door. Kibibi Kaloba took her three children and ran away. According to the villagers, the attackers were park guards and soldiers from the Congolese army.

It is in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo that the hills of the Kahuzi-Biega National Park are located. The park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980, with the largest donor being the German federal government. It is home to the last remaining eastern lowland gorillas, as well as the native Batwa. But since 2019, this minority has become the target of targeted attacks. The Minority Rights NGO Group (MRG) investigated the violence and released a nearly 100-page report on April 6 that featured park guards and Congolese army soldiers. They will be held responsible for the killings, rapes and forcible displacement of the Batwa.

Chief Mbuwa Kalimba Bachirembera has no doubt that the park administration is seeking to expel the Batwa, even though their ancestral land is inside.

According to him, “they were sent by the ICCN (Congolese Agency for the Conservation of Nature, ed.). They attack us every year since 2019. When they killed people, they cut off their hands, showed them to others and told them to leave. fields, otherwise they would all be exterminated.

According to the Minority Rights Group (MRG), an NGO that investigated incidents of violence against the Batwa over the past three years, park guards and Congolese army soldiers killed at least 20 members of the minority, raped about fifteen women and forcibly relocated hundreds of people after burning their villages.

Two park guards in Bukavu, the provincial capital of South Kivu, confirm this violence against the Batwa. They explain that another guard who was critical of the park’s management has been found dead. Therefore, they prefer to remain anonymous.

“I was there when they rebuilt their villages three times, and each time we destroyed them. Usually we carried out attacks with soldiers of the Congolese army,” explains one of the guards.

According to another, “The order came from our leader, De Die Bya’Ombe. There were 75 of us and our mission was to burn down those houses. The goal is to terrorize the population so that they do not return.”

The director of De Dieu Park, Byaombe Balongelva, who is involved in the case, denies these accusations. In a written response to DW, he said there was never any targeted violence in the park. He also never gave orders for such attacks. Moreover, he believes that he was the victim of a conspiracy to get rid of him as the director of the park.

Donor response

In any case, this violence is reported when the Reconstruction Loan Corporation (KfW) funds projects in six nature reserves in the Congo, including the Kahuzi-Biega National Park, on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and in close cooperation with the with the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ). In total, according to KfW, 66 million euros have been paid out since 2008.

According to the Minority Rights NGO Group, donors were informed of attacks on the Batwa as early as 2019. “These international sponsors of the park have repeatedly been informed that their financial and material support has led to massive abuses of civilians,” according to Robert Flammerfelt, author of the Minority Rights Group report. “The evidence uncovered during this investigation clearly indicates that they were involved in abuses that could constitute crimes against humanity,” he adds.

Donors have also funded paramilitary training for park rangers. From Flummerfelt’s point of view, this violates the UN arms embargo on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, because the UN Security Council was not notified in advance.

The director of De Dieu Park, Byaombe Balongelva, who is involved in the case, denies these accusations. In a written response to DW, he said there was never any targeted violence in the park. He also never gave orders for such attacks. Moreover, he believes that he was the victim of a conspiracy to get rid of him as the director of the park.

In a press release, BMZ ensures that allegations of crimes against the Batwa are taken very seriously and asks the Congolese authorities to launch a prompt and independent investigation.

KfW’s written response states that it was informed of the attacks on the Batwa and asked the environmental authority to investigate. “KfW strongly condemns the described actions (…). The KfW rejects any form of violence as absolutely unacceptable,” clarifies the KfW, which ensures that the purpose of funding the training was “exclusively training for the non-military purposes of protecting the national park as a public good.” KfW also emphasizes that it shares the federal government’s belief that nature conservation must be based on respect for human rights.

In 2019/2020, several reports from the daily Taz about misconduct in the park led the German Ministry of Development to withdraw financial support from the nature conservation authority. However, payments resumed in May 2020.

Come back despite the fear

Meanwhile, the Batwa from Bugamande decided to return to their village. There is a great fear that they will be kicked out again. But the villagers hope that international media coverage of their plight will protect them. In any case, Namondokolo is determined to return to her homeland despite the violence she has endured: “We will stay here whether she is shot at or not. We agreed to die on this earth,” she says.




Dw/MCP, via mediacongo.net

Leave a Comment