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Grave concern over plight of Twa pygmies in Eastern Congo

16 January 2003

As a major UN investigation today confimed the commission of widespread atrocities against Twa ‘pygmy’ communities in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Minority Rights Group International (MRG) called for neighbouring states and the UN Security Council to take urgent diplomatic and humanitarian action to protect Twa and other communities from violations including mass rape, kidnapping, executions and cannibalism carried out against them by rebel factions.

MRG expressed its grave concern over the plight of Twa communities including those of Ituri province where a reported 80,000 – 120,000 people have been displaced from their homes and villages in recent fighting between forces including the Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC), and the Congolese Rally for Democracy-National (RCD-N) amongst other rebel factions in the region. The United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, MONUC, today confirmed reports that grave human rights abuses were committed by these rebel groups and submitted its report to the UN Security Council.

‘Rebel factions in the North-East Congo have long been supported by neighbouring states, particularly Uganda’, said MRG. ‘Such states should now use their influence with rebel leaders to ensure that human rights abuses stop and those responsible are brought to justice. The UN Security Council should ensure that MONUC has the resources available to carry out its mandate, including human rights monitoring and facilitating humanitarian assistance.’

MRG’s partner organisations in DR Congo, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi work for the rights and development of Twa communities throughout the region. MRG has drawn attention to the extreme discrimination experienced by the Twa in a recent report and statements to the UN Commission on Human Rights. The Twa have been caught up in the continuing conflict in the Congo because their communities often live in remote areas where armed groups operate and where they have consistently been attacked or forced to fight, hunt and track for rebel groups.

Mark Lattimer, MRG’s Director stated: ‘Nearly a third of the Twa in Rwanda were wiped out as a result of the 1994 genocide. Unless action is taken soon, Twa communities in the Congo will now also face devastation.’

Notes for editors

  1. MRG’s report, The Batwa Pygmies of the Great Lakes Region by Jerome Lewis, is available online.
  2. Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is a non-governmental organization working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide, and to promote cooperation and understanding between communities.

For interviews, further information or copies of The Batwa Pygmies of the Great Lakes Region, please contact the MRG Press Office on [email protected] .