- A Letter From Uganda

UGANDA TWA INDIGENOUS ETHNIC MINORITY AFFECTED BY HUNGER AS RESULT OF COVID-19 LOCKDOWN

Though marginalized and left to starve, the Twa of Uganda still maintain their cultural heritage and their famous songs.

By fPcN - 23. May 2020

The Twa forest people live in Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Often known as Batwa, as they are called by Bantu speakers, or Pygmies, a derogatory term, they are the most ancient group of humans indigenous to this region of Africa. Until very recently, the Twa were the long-time hunter-gather culture, living sustainably and happy in these forests that are their ancestral home. 

But the Twa have experienced extreme social and cultural changes in the past several decades due to the loss of their forests, homes and land through invading aggressive agriculture and inadequately executed international conservation efforts.

As human pressure by outsiders on the forests and deforestation increased, also the Batwa were forced to live outside their forests.

In 1991 the Batwa were formally evicted from their ancestral forests as these became national parks. This was an aggressive pincer movement by the Ugandan government, the World Bank and the European Union, who stand accused of genocide in this case.

Thus, the Twa lost their last rights to access their forests and land. Since their evictions some 20 years ago, these genuine forest people have been unable to compete on equal terms with other ethnic groups outside the forest, and they remain one of the most marginalized groups of society, both in the region, in Uganda and globally. Recognized refugees from e.g. Burundi are for example surviving in Kenya and Australia. If the injustice against the Twa in Uganda is not reversed they also might have to become refugees. We hold the WorldBank, the European Union (EU) and the Ugandan government responsible for the misery.

Though the Twa have specialist skills as famous clay-pot makers, that is not enough to make them surviving outside the forest and separated from their natural forest resources. Therefore they were forced to mainly work as labourers for powerful land owners from Uganda's mainstream society - holding the Twa more or less as slaves. But that meagre income has of recent also faltered due to the economic hardship imposed by COVID-19 measures.

Today the Twa also experience some discrimination even within public hospitals. Some staff don't like to treat members of Twa communities because they regard them as unclean.

The Twa also are legit part of the biodiversity of the mountainous forest triangle shared by Uganda (Bwindi Impenetrable Forest NP and Magahinga), Rwanda (Virunga Mountains with the Gorilla research station at Kerisoke) and DR Congo (Virunga National Park) but while the EU and WorldBank (UN) spend billions to save the Mountain Gorillas, they commit genocide against the Twa, who have the same rights as the Gorillas, if not more, to live in peace in their ancestral habitat. 

Now the Twa of Uganda are really suffering.

A LETTER FOR HELP

(- received by friends of Peoples close to Nature - fPcN-interCultural)

Dear friends,

Before the COVID-19, the Batwa healthcare situation seemed to be like for the general Ugandan population but the difference was poverty. Here in Uganda, we have now a challenge where nurses and doctors take public medicine to their private pharmacy and clinics. So, every time people go to public hospitals, they are directed to buy medicine from clinics. The Batwa do not have the means to pay the expensive medical bills.

The Twa became world famous and inspired American Jazz as well as Techno with their special forest songs, but they never received any royalties (e.g. for THE CD "DEEP FOREST")
After having also lost their forests, today their pots are empty, but they still sing and the world must finally come up to rectify the injustices and right now help them to survive.

About two years ago, a UK-based organization established a program in a private hospital. It was a special program for sick Batwa and pregnant women. This program had helped a lot regarding Batwa healthcare by improving Batwa families’ health and hygiene.

But this program expired, the Ugandan government did not take over and now we started suffering again like before.

Currently, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 among the Twa, but the threat is still out there and we expect a healthcare crisis once the virus reaches our communities in Kisoro, Kabale, Kanungu and Rubanda Districts. It could be worse since our living situation and living situation is very bad. But at present most challenging is the hunger.

Recently, our organization received two million Uganda Shillings (around 500 USD), which we used to acquire maize flour and beans. It was distributed to a few families. Though this effort helped, it remained a grave shortfall since all the Twa are estimated to number about 6,000 – 7,000 people. Every morning, starving members fom Twa communities come to us and cry - asking for food. But we cannot do anything without adequate funding and aid.

Why are the Batwa experiencing extreme hunger?

It is because we have lost our lands. We once lived and sustained our lives in the forests until the government evicted us for agriculture businesses, logging, development projects, and the creation of conservation areas. Without respect for our rights to ancestral lands, no compensation, no clear relocation plans or designated lands, we are left with no sustainable option to survive.

Thus, we call for immediate acknowledgement of our rights to our ancestral lands, as well as a special and immediate relief program with a special focus on the implementation of healthcare responsive to the needs of the Twa communities including all health work including maternal health, hygiene, nutrition and protection in time of the pandemic.

Please help

Alex 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ahimbisibwe Alex

Batwa Indigenous Development Organization (BIDO)

Uganda

====

After the San people of Southern Africa, the Twa and their related forest peoples in the centre of Africa are the oldest still living human ethnicity on Earth - we all have to stop the ongoing genocide directed against them.

ECOTERRA Intl. and fPcN appreciate your kind assistance and prefer that sponsors send funds directly to the affected people.

PEASE DONATE:

Account name: AHIMBISIBWE ALEX

Account number: 01631096056047

Bank swift: DFCUUGKA

Address: Kashija Village

 

The easiest and fastes transfer of funds is by sending remittances through WorldRemit and MPesa 

Phone number.+256-777-54229

Name: Bekunda Kate

Address: Kashija

Country: Uganda

City:  Kisoro

===

Please send an e-mail with info on your transfer (or a copy) to Ahimbisibwe Alex <> and

===

If you are interested as donor to finance a programme or recieve tax-deductable receipts for larger donations please contact and directly

If you like to donate anonymously to the Twa people via fPcN please contact

READ MORE ABOUT THE TWA

With no tourists coming to the Twa Cultural Heritage Centre due to the COVID-19 pandemic and tourism shutdown, the Twa forest people are starving and receive almost never any governmental food aid.