Situated in Central Africa, at the heart of the second largest forest in the world and straddling the equator, the Republic of Congo covers 341,821 km2. The Congolese population numbered 5,279,517 million in 2018 with an annual growth rate of 3.68%. It comprises two distinct groups: the Pygmies and the Bantu. The Pygmies are generally nomadic or semi-nomadic hunger/gatherers although some have now settled on the land and are working on agricultural or livestock farms, in commercial hunting or as trackers, prospectors or workers for the logging companies.1
Republic of Congo
Located in the heart of the second largest forest mass in the world, the Republic of the Congo covers 342,000 km2 of Central Africa. The Republic has 4,085,422 inhabitants according to a 2011 survey, and some sources say that indigenous peoples represent 10% of the total population.
The indigenous peoples in the Republic of the Congo are known as Bakola, Tswa or Batwas, Babongo, Baaka, Mbendjeles, Mikayas, Bagombes, Babis and more.
Indigenous peoples in the Republic of the Congo
The names of the indigenous peoples of the Congo vary. They can be known in terms such as Bakola, Tswa or Batwas, Babongo, Baaka, Mbendjeles, Mikayas, Bagombes and Babis. It is officially estimated that indigenous peoples are 50,000 individuals or approximately 1.2 percent of the total population of 2007. A 2008 report by UNICEF questions this number by suggesting that indigenous peoples make up a much larger proportion of the population, as well as indigenous peoples 10%.
Declaration, Convention and Constitution
The Republic of the Congo has not ratified ILO Convention No. 169, but voted in favour of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007.
The protection of the rights of indigenous peoples has been constitutionally enshrined since October 2015. Article 16 says that: "The law guarantees and provides promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples." The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights is responsible for promoting indigenous rights.
Challenges for indigenous peoples in Congo
In 2007, the National Network of Indigenous Peoples of the Congo (RENAPAC) was established as a platform to represent indigenous civil society. The network has been involved in most of the political processes that affect indigenous peoples. However, the network is challenged in terms of capacity among its organizers and there is a need to strengthen its ownership of the law that promotes and protects the rights of indigenous peoples.
Despite the law, the indigenous population continues to suffer discrimination and marginalization, which explains the need for a more dynamic society.
On the 30th December 2010 the Parliament adopted a law for the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples in the Republic of Congo. This law is the first of its kind in Africa, and its adoption is a historic development for indigenous peoples on the continent. It is hoped that this law will be a source of inspiration for other countries in Africa to take similar initiatives, IWGIA therefore welcomes the translation of the law into English.