• The Congo Basin

    The Congo Basin

    Who are the indigenous peoples of the Congo Basin?

    Indigenous peoples in the Congo Basin region are primarily hunter-foragers living in the rainforest, often called 'Pygmies' as well as Mbororo pastoralists in the Sahel.

    Indigenous peoples are ethnically diverse and included in the group called "Pygmies" there are Aka, Bagyeli, Bakola, Bakoya, Baka, Babenjelle, Babi, Bacwa, Babongo and others living in the rainforest regions of Cameroon, Central African Republic Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and the Republic of Congo. These different peoples each have their own language, history, culture and origin.

    The Mbororo nomadic herders live mostly in the border regions of Chad, Cameroon and Central African Republic all the way into Benin. They are part of the broader language and cultural group Peulh / Fulani present in West Africa.

Human Rights

Congo Republic was the first African country to adopt a national legislative framework for the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights in alignment with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Central African Republic is the only African State to sign the ILO Convention 169.

Indigenous peoples of the rainforests are vulnerable to several violations of human right, discrimination, exclusion from education, land tenure insecurity, exclusion of traditional leadership system, forced labour, cases of slavery, rape of women and girls; sexual abuse by land-owners on farms, very low levels of access to health services and other forms of insecurity and abuse. The majority of the indigenous in the Congo Basin region do not have national identity cards and their citizenship is regularly questioned.

Even if a village has an indigenous majority, it is still very rare for a "Pygmy" to be permitted to be a village chief. This is the basis of a strong exclusion of participation in decision-making.

The indigenous forest dwellers are regularly trapped between poaching led by the dominant populations and conservation efforts, often funded by international NGOs. The Pygmies are equipped with the sophisticated biodiversity skills and knowledge including tracking competence but because of the illiteracy rates they are excluded from decent employment in protected areas.

IPACC in cooperation with PIDP and WWF has launched a new human rights training programme in the Central African Republic.

Mbororo herders migrate within and across several countries of northern Congo Basin. There is growing conflict between herders and farmers, the latter having more political support to occupy pastoralist lands for subsistence farming. Pastoralist access to land is limited, despite their needs for water and pasture.

The majority of Mbororo are illiterate and have no access to public services, which often makes victims of discrimination and exploitation by neighbouring farmers. In addition, their lack of community spirit and individualistic lifestyle and their traditional weak institutions explain the lack of political representation of Mbororo nationally.

Recently, the Mbororo have been victims of attacks by Boko Haram, the extremist Nigerian based armed movement that specialises in kidnapping young girls and terrorising communities. In CAR, the security situation is extreme, with terrible killings and violence between warring factions and a sharp conflict between Muslims and Christians after the collapse of the

Climate Change and the Environment

Deforestation

The Pygmies of the Congo Basin communities are constantly threatened by exploitation of land and forests. The high levels of corruption encourage illegal logging and bad environmental conduct which often damage their ancestral resources, sacred forests and biodiversity being destroyed. Infrastructure construction is being done without consulting local populations and leads to forced displacement and loss of livelihoods.

One of the biggest sources of concern for the Congo Basin comes from deforestation caused by logging by private companies. One Malaysian company has been involved in human trafficking, over harvesting, corruption and clear-cutting of primary forest in indigenous territory. This has disastrous effects on the environment and on biodiversity and forest peoples.

Many international agencies have interests in the Congo Basin, but coordination among NGOs is still weak, which puts indigenous people in a difficult position.
There are several instruments and mechanisms to meet the challenges of deforestation and degradation of biodiversity, including the Congo Basin Fund, the COMIFHAC, FSC, CARPE and others. The indigenous struggle for civil society to be heard in these large state bodies normally.

The International Indigenous Peoples Forum (FIPAC) is a body that creates a dialogue between national governments and indigenous peoples on issues of the environment and human rights.