July 14, 2022

Historically Marginalised Community or “Batwa” of Rwanda Want to Go Back to Forest Life


Trustworthy and indepth news stories are more important now than ever.
Support our newsroom by MAKING A CONTRIBUTION HERE
Members of the Historically marginalised community still engage in pottery but no longer allowed to roam freely in forests

Community in Rwanda identified as “historically marginalised”, but previously called “Batwa” want to go back to the life they live for centuries; the forest.

At a gathering in Kigali, their representatives are meeting to prepare for the inaugural Africa Protected Areas Congress convened convened by the Government of Rwanda, UNESCO and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), due to take place July 18-23.

Delegates representing indigenous communities from 20 African countries have already arrived for preparatory sessions. Other delegates include Batwa and Benet communities of Uganda, the Ogiek of Mau and Mt Elgon, Aweer of coastal Kenya, Sengwer of Embobut (Kenya), Maasai of Simanjiro in Tanzania and Yaaku of Laikipia (Kenya).

In Rwanda, there is a community which became known as “Batwa” as a result of the ethnicisation of people living in Rwanda during the colonial period. They have a distinct small and short stature. They also lived by hunting in forests and doing pottery.

Few went to school. The political class kept the community away from meaningful economic activity, which left nearly all in abject poverty.  

Following the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, ethnic identifications were outlawed by the new administration. The word “Batwa” was removed from the national vocabulary, replaced with “historically marginalised Community”.

Various government initiatives have been put in place to change the lives of this community including free housing, land for cultivation, and mandatory schooling.

In both Houses of Parliament, there are lawmakers who are there as part of the community’s redevelopment agenda.

The forests where the ‘Batwa’ roamed freely are out of bounds due to the government’s strict environment conservation programs.  

COPORWA, their umbrella association, released findings last year which showed that they were 36,000 in total across Rwanda, from a population of about 13m.

In 2018, a Senate Committee report found that some districts had diverted government funding meant for this community’s welfare, to other things. It had led to many still living in poverty and illiteracy.

But 28 years later, it appears the community would rather be let to live their former livelihoods.

Historically marginalised community members in Rutsiro district

Speaking this Thursday on the sidelines of ongoing preparation for the conference of African indigenous communities, the Rwandans want their concerns adopted on the final recommendations.

They want government to allow them to go back to the forests, and instead initiate programs that will help them survive without impacting on conservation schemes.

The head of Hope for Communty Development Organisation, Niyomugabo Ildephonse, which has been campaigning for the rights of the community, said they don’t have land rights.

Speaking to journalists, Ildephonse said the community supports government’s conservation schemes that protect forests from encroachment but that their rights also need to be safeguarded as people who lived in forests.

Ildephonse cited the case of the Masai in Kenya and Batwa in Cameroon whom he said still successfully live the life they had centuries ago.

“For us in Rwanda and Burundi, our livelihoods have been changed completely from our original way of life,” he said.

The IUCN congress is intended to further enhance the status of conservation in Africa by engaging governments, the private sector, civil society, indigenous peoples and local communities, academia to shape Africa’s Protected and Conserved Areas Agenda to better deliver benefits for people and nature.

Other indigenous communities from Kenya and other countries are also pushing for similar rights. They are working on a new model which they say protects environment using indigenous knowledge.

We can't do quality journalism without your support

Perhaps it goes without saying — but producing quality journalism isn't cheap. At a time when newsroom resources and revenue are declining, The Chronicles remains committed to "Serving Your Right To Know The Truth". Stand with us as we document Rwanda's remarkable journey for you and the future generation. Do you value our journalism? We can't do it without you. Show us with your support by CONTRIBUTING HERE.
Email your news TIPS to info@chronicles.rw or WhatsApp +250788351327.
You can also find us on Signal

24 Comments

  1. I¦ve read a few good stuff here. Definitely worth bookmarking for revisiting. I wonder how a lot effort you place to create this sort of wonderful informative site.

  2. I’ve been surfing on-line greater than 3 hours nowadays, but I by no means discovered any fascinating article like yours. It’s pretty value sufficient for me. In my view, if all website owners and bloggers made excellent content as you probably did, the internet will likely be a lot more helpful than ever before. “It’s all right to have butterflies in your stomach. Just get them to fly in formation.” by Dr. Rob Gilbert.

  3. Good day! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this website? I’m getting sick and tired of WordPress because I’ve had issues with hackers and I’m looking at options for another platform. I would be great if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

  4. We are a group of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community. Your web site offered us with valuable information to work on. You’ve done an impressive job and our whole community will be grateful to you.

  5. obviously like your web-site but you have to test the spelling on quite a few of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling problems and I to find it very troublesome to tell the reality however I will surely come back again.

  6. This is the right blog for anyone who wants to find out about this topic. You realize so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually would want…HaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a topic thats been written about for years. Great stuff, just great!

  7. I simply desired to say thanks again. I’m not certain what I might have undertaken in the absence of those strategies discussed by you about that problem. It previously was an absolute difficult dilemma in my circumstances, however , considering this professional form you resolved it took me to weep for gladness. I’m just happy for this information and in addition hope that you find out what an amazing job you happen to be doing teaching other individuals all through your websites. I’m certain you have never come across all of us.

  8. Thanks for the sensible critique. Me & my neighbor were just preparing to do some research on this. We got a grab a book from our area library but I think I learned more clear from this post. I am very glad to see such excellent info being shared freely out there.

  9. Just a smiling visitor here to share the love (:, btw outstanding design. “The price one pays for pursuing a profession, or calling, is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.” by James Arthur Baldwin.

  10. I really wanted to make a brief word in order to thank you for these precious tricks you are sharing on this website. My time consuming internet lookup has at the end of the day been compensated with excellent facts to talk about with my close friends. I ‘d mention that many of us website visitors are truly fortunate to dwell in a very good place with many perfect individuals with good ideas. I feel very fortunate to have come across the site and look forward to some more exciting minutes reading here. Thank you once more for a lot of things.

  11. I’m impressed, I must say. Really not often do I encounter a weblog that’s each educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you have got hit the nail on the head. Your concept is outstanding; the issue is one thing that not sufficient individuals are speaking intelligently about. I am very completely happy that I stumbled across this in my search for something relating to this.

  12. What i do not realize is in truth how you are now not actually a lot more well-liked than you might be right now. You’re so intelligent. You recognize thus considerably on the subject of this subject, produced me in my opinion imagine it from so many varied angles. Its like women and men are not involved except it’s something to do with Woman gaga! Your personal stuffs nice. Always handle it up!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *