The concept of “indigenous peoples” is accepted and approved by the government and civil society organisations (CSOs) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In the DRC, the term refers to the Mbuti, Baka and Batwa peoples, who consider the generic denomination of “Pygmies” to be derogatory and discriminatory.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Despite the various efforts of civil society and international partners, the situation of indigenous peoples in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has not yet reached many key milestones.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo supported the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on September 13, 2007. It is also noteworthy that programs related to climate change in the Democratic Republic of the Congo relate to the rights of the indigenous peoples.
The Mbuti, Baka and Batwa peoples
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the term indigenous peoples refer to the Mbuti, Baka and Batwa peoples. They consider the generic denomination of pygmies as derogatory and discriminatory.
The exact number of indigenous people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is unknown. While the government estimates that there are around 600,000, or 1% of the Congolese population, civil society organizations argue that there are up to 2,000,000, or 3% of the population.
The Mbuti, Baka and Batwa peoples live in nomadic and semi-nomadic groups in almost all the provinces of the country and live on hunting, gathering, collecting and fishing. The indigenous peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are not represented in decision-making bodies at all levels and their access to basic services, including health and education, remains below the national average.
Main challenges for the Mbuti, Baka and Batwa peoples
The situation of indigenous peoples in the Democratic Republic of the Congo remains a cause for great concern as their ancestral lands and natural resources face increasing external pressure and are forced to renounce their traditional economy and live on the margins of society in extreme poverty.
Unless their rights, guaranteed by international standards, are duly protected, the living space of indigenous peoples will be further reduced, depriving them of the resources they depend on for their survival and resulting in the disappearance of their culture.
The situation of the human rights of the indigenous peoples in the country is alarming. In the Katanga region, there is an increasing number of Batwa indigenous people killed in an ethnic conflict with neighboring communities such as Luba. The process of adopting a specific law designed to provide special protection for indigenous peoples in the country is still stalled in Parliament. So far, conflicts in Katanga have caused more than 200 deaths, more than 13 villages have been burned down and it is estimated that there are more than 100,000 internally displaced people.
Advances in policy dialogue on indigenous peoples in the DRC
In June 2016, the first multi-stakeholder political dialogue on indigenous peoples in the country was held. The initiative was financed by the International Fund for Agriculture and Development (IFAD) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and was implemented with the collaboration of the International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) and the organization national coordinator Dynamique des Groupes des Peuples Autochtones.
The Policy Dialogue aimed to promote the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Another potential progress is the launch by the World Bank of the Dedicated Grant Mechanism for Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (DGM), which intends to improve the capacity of indigenous peoples and support initiatives to strengthen their participation in processes at the local level, national and global.