Somalilandsun – Minority Rights Group International (MRG) has condemned the killing of two indigenous Batwa and asked the Government to probe into the causes of ethnic clashes in the Kabale district of South-West Uganda, following last week’s bloody attack on members of the Batwa people by the dominant Bakiga community.
The attack follows the killing of a Mukiga woman on 3 December 2014 by unknown assailants. The community is then reported to have blamed the Batwa people for the killing and simultaneously attacked them, sparking off a bloody clash.
By 4 December 2014, two Batwa men had been stoned to death; two others had been critically injured and admitted to Kabale Regional Referral Hospital. Acting MRG Regional Africa Manager Freddy Batundi stated, “We strongly condemn these barbaric attacks against the Batwa community, and call on the Government to immediately investigate and find a lasting solution to their troubles. The Bakiga should not take the law into their own hands. They should let the authorities do their work to avert any further clashes.”
According to MRG partner African International Christian Ministry (AICM), which works to secure the rights of the Batwa in the region, the fighting started when a section of the Bakiga community accused a group of Batwa men of allegedly killing a Mukiga woman
“The Bakiga community, armed with all sorts of weapons ranging from machetes to bows and spears, attacked the whole Batwa community. They killed two men and critically injured two Batwa – an 18-year-old girl and a man aged 22 years,” read part of a statement from AICM Executive Director Faith Tushabe, who had sent her staff to the area to assess the situation, first hand.
The bloody clashes are linked to long-standing ethnic differences between the dominant Bakiga community and the Indigenous Batwa. According to Tushabe, the Bakiga undermine and discriminate against the Batwa, “because they think the Batwa are outsiders who were evicted from protected reserves and have no place on their land. So, even if the Bakiga are in the wrong, they will always want to dominate the Batwa,” she added.
Tushabe adds that earlier this year, several huts of the Batwa were reduced to ashes in Kisoro district of South-West Uganda after a young Batwa man, who had married a woman belonging to the Bakiga community failed to pay bride price.
According to Tushabe, the Batwa are one of the most marginalized indigenous communities in Uganda. They have no access to land, food, proper medical care, education or clean water. No one speaks on their behalf at national and local levels, she said.
According to Tushabe, the authorities have yet to apprehend the arsonists who torched the Batwa huts earlier this year. “They continue saying the same thing that they are still investigating. This is so stressful to the Batwa community,” she added.
The Batwa have lived a life of a constant struggle to keep their dignity intact amidst the discrimination.
Originally forest dwellers, the few thousand Batwa in Uganda have been almost entirely dispossessed of their land by the combined pressures of government departments responsible for conservation, and cultivators, notably Bakiga, claiming their land. They live in South-West Uganda in the districts of Bundibugyo, Kabale, Kisoro and Rukungiri. The Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest of Uganda was the home of the Batwa before they were evicted, causing them to become dependent on the Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Conservation Trust.
Minority Rights Group International (MRG)-Press Release
•Minority Rights Group International is a non-governmental organization working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide
•For more information please contact:
MRG Press Office in Africa – Frederick Womakuyu
Freddy Batundi – Acting MRG Africa Regional Manager
AICM Executive Director