Batwa boy shot dead in Kahuzi-Biéga National Park, DRC

A Batwa boy has been shot dead by eco-guards at the Kahuzi-Biéga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was with his father gathering medicinal herbs on ancestral lands. His father was shot in the arm, but managed to escape.

The father, Munganga Nakulire, and his son, Christian Mbone Nakulire, were carrying only machetes. They were shot at by eco-guards from the Congolese Institute of Nature Conservation (ICCN) on 26 August 2017.

On its website, Forest Peoples Programme includes a statement from Pacifique Mukumbwa, the Director of CAMV (Centre d’Accompagnement des Autochtones Pygmées et Minoritaires Vulnérables):

“On the morning of Saturday, 26 August, Munganga Nakulire, accompanied by his child Christian Mbone Nakulire, decided to go to the Kahuzi Bièga National Park to take care of his child, who suffers from diarrhoea.
 
“They arrived on the Bahaya Hill in the middle of the Kahuzi Bièga National Park, where they came across four eco-guard trackers. Suddenly one of them opened fire and shot at Munganga Nakulire, who was seriously injured in his right arm. He managed to escape despite his injury, leaving behind his child who was shot in cold blood while trying to hide.”

Whakatane Mechanism

The Batwa were evicted from the Kahuzi-Biéga National Park (PNKB) when it was created in the 1970s. In 2014, the Batwa held meetings with the Park and Provincial Authorities, part of a Whakatane dialogue aimed at addressing the Batwa’s livelihood problems.

The Whakatane Mechanism aims “to assess the situation in different protected areas around the world and, where people are negatively affected, to propose solutions and implement them”.

Forest People Programme sums up the 2014 Whakatane draft roadmap as having two key aspects:

  • ensuring the Provincial and Park Authorities meet the immediate livelihood needs of the Batwa, and
  • ensuring that the Batwa have pilot areas of PNKB returned to them where they can live and demonstrate that they can sustainably use and protect their forests. If successful, then this Batwa community tenure-based conservation, with support from PNKB and ICCN, would be rolled out across PNKB.

Further Whakatane meetings took place in 2016 and 2017. During the meetings the Batwa have explained that there is nowhere for them to live that doesn’t already belong to someone else. They pointed out that the solution involves recognising their land rights at Kahuzi-Biéga.

Forest Peoples Programme comments that,

the terrible incident this week shows yet again that there appears to be no willingness from the park authorities to recognise such pilot areas. Quite the opposite, we now learn that a young Batwa, while searching for medicinal plants on ancestral lands, has been killed while trying to hide from the eco-guards after they shot his father.

Civil society denounces shootings

Civil society and indigenous peoples’ organisations in the province of South Kivu have denounced the shooting. Five local organisations signed a statement demanding that the authorities:

  • Identify the authors of this double crime;
  • Clarify the circumstances and responsibilities of the authors of such a horrible crime;
  • Apply complete legal strictness and punishment to the authors of this crime, so that it never occurs again.
  • The protection of the Indigenous Communities living in Buyungule in the edges of KBNP and the reparation of the victims traumatized in this specific case.

Case with the African Commission

In November 2015, the Minority Rights Group and Environnement Ressources Naturelles et Développement started a case on behalf of the Batwa, before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights:

The case alleges that the Batwa have been deprived of their land, prevented from practising their traditional livelihoods and denied access to the most basic of social services, suffer a high rate of malnutrition, disease and death and, suffer deep-rooted discrimination while living amongst other majority communities.

The case remains pending before the African Commission.

Felicien Balikunda, Minority Rights Group’s Africa Capacity Building Officer, works closely with the Batwa community in DRC. In a statement, he said,

“MRG is both shocked and saddened that these Batwa men were shot by members of the Park authorities whilst carrying out their perfectly legal traditional activities in their ancestral home. These crimes must be promptly investigated, and the law rigorously enforced against the perpetrators.

 

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