- DR Congo
At the heart of the Congo forest lives one of the oldest populations in the world, pygmies. They represent a small minority, around 1% of the population. They are routinely abused and exploited by Bantus, the main ethnic group, mostly landowners. Our correspondents Arnaud Zeitman and Marlène Rabaud bring us this report.
Pygmies used to be a nomad population, tribes of hunters. But food has become scarce: the pygmies are no longer the only ones in the forest. “Bantus come to the forest to cut down the wood they need for their houses and cooking”, says Mokala Tshimosi, a woman hunter. This is one of the main causes of deforestation in Africa, depriving many animals of their natural habitat.
To survive, Pygmies were forced to abandon their traditional lifestyle, in search of paid work in factories and farms. Their wages are pathetic, their working conditions are deplorable. They are regularly whipped and abused by their bosses. “I have never seen a bantu who will do this kind of work. This is why I use pygmy women and children,” says Theophile Landusa, a Bantu landowner.
Synch Ifumi Inguni is an accountant, one of the rare pygmies to earn a decent living. He believes the main problem is the lack of schooling, and rampant alcoholism among adult pygmies.
Malaria and malnourishment take a particularly hard toll on young children. One pygmy child out of three dies before reaching the age of five.
Pygmies are an ancient society: they are mentioned in texts dating back 5,000 years. But the legends carried to us by Greek poets of the Antiquity describe them as sub-human. Today, one of their most difficult challenges is just to be considered as equal members of the human race.