Petition calling for the cessation of serious human rights violations against the indigenous Batwa people of Kahuzi Biega National Park in South Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for reparations for the harms committed, and for the restoration of their socio-economic, cultural and land rights

 Respectfully submitted this — DATE — December 2021

 

Sign the petition:  https://forms.gle/5By6wBtboQNBsgZN7

See the signatures below.

 

Whereas…

  1. In 1975, some 6,000 Indigenous Batwa people were evicted from their traditional lands to make way for the expansion of Kahuzi Biega National Park (PNKB), and subsequently received no compensation, and no alternative lands or means of survival;

 

  1. Over the past 45 years, these indigenous Batwa people and their descendants have lived in abject poverty, and have not been integrated into the social, economic or traditional governance structures of South Kivu Province;

 

  1. Since 2014, several dialogues have taken place to negotiate a solution for the Batwa people, including Whakatane (2014), Miti (February 2018) and Bukavu (November 2019), but the agreements and promises have not been kept by the officials of the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) or the PNKB;

 

  1. Meanwhile, Batwa who were attempting to exercise their legal, international and traditional indigenous rights to access their lands inside the PNKB for purposes specifically permitted by law (such as the gathering of medicinal plants or the collection of non-timber forest products) have been harassed, threatened, arrested, chased and killed by PNKB ecoguards, sometimes in collaboration with members of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC);

 

  1. In 2018, after all the negotiated agreements and promises were repeatedly violated by the ICCN and the PNKB, several indigenous families returned to live on their traditional lands, now within the boundaries of the Park, lacking any alternative means of survival;

 

  1. Since 2017, reported incidents of human rights violations of indigenous Batwa people living in and around PNKB, including death threats, arbitrary arrests, beatings and gunshots resulting in injuries, killings, and village burned down, among others, reached a toll of:
  • 29 people killed by ecoguards and/or soldiers (including two children burned alive)
  • 12 villages burned (some of the villages were burned more than once)
  • a large number of displaced people (hundreds of families), some of them repeatedly
  • 17 people suffered arbitrary arrests and detentions in prison; 14 were later released when lawyers intervened, 2 died from poor prison conditions, one remains in jail on what are widely viewed as false charges
  • 4 serious threats against NGOs defending Batwa rights by Congolese officials

 

  1. When relevant civil society organizations (including international and Congolese) have demanded an end to these human rights violations, PNKB officials have sometimes denied the incidents, and at other times have justified them on the basis that Batwa people have collaborated with, or served as human shields for, militias engaged in the illegal extraction of natural resources in the park;

 

  1. The most recent of these serious human rights violations against the Batwa of Kahuzi Biega National Park took place on 12-15 November 2021, during a joint attack by PNKB ecoguards and the FARDC in which five Batwa people were killed (two children burned alive, a pregnant woman and her fetus killed, and a man killed); 7 or 8 Batwa villages were set on fire; the roads to these villages were blocked by assailants, thus trapping people and preventing assistance from reaching them; death threats were reportedly made against local traditional Batwa chiefs; large numbers of Batwa people fled into the forest or to neighboring villages; and the local media and national news organizations remained silent on the events;

 

 

We, the undersigned NGOs and social actors, hereby call on all relevant local, national and international parties to do their part to ensure the immediate cessation of these serious human rights violations against the Indigenous Batwa People of Kahuzi Biega National Park, reparations for the damage already committed and the rights already violated, and the restoration of the socio-economic, cultural and land rights of these Indigenous Batwa People in and around the Kahuzi Biega National Park in South Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

 

We further call on the Congolese government to:

  • protect all its inhabitants, without discrimination based on race, color or ethnicity, including for any particular groups;
  • officially and fully recognize the rights of the indigenous Batwa people, and enforce these rights to the fullest extent of the law;
  • apply the various charters and signed conventions that protect the rights of these indigenous Batwa people; and
  • investigate, identify and punish the perpetrators of these serious human rights violations, including the right to life.

 

In addition, we ask that the following specific mechanisms be invoked to redress the violations that have taken place and to prevent new violations:

 

At the international level

  1. An investigation by the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Mr. Francisco Cali Tzay, into these reported violations

 

  1. An investigation carried out by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), under the leadership of Ms. Michelle Bachelet, into these reported violations

 

  1. An investigation by the “UNESCO 104 Procedure for Addressing Alleged Human Rights Violations”, into UNESCO’s role in these reported violations at a UNESCO World Heritage site 

 

At the national level

  1. We call on the President of the Republic:

(a) to ensure enforcement of the law by all those concerned;

(b) to implement measures and policies adapted to the context and the environment of the indigenous Batwa people of the PNKB, on an emergency basis; and

(c) to compensate victims of the unlawful expulsion for purposes of public use.

 

  1. We call on the Director General of the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature:

(a) to ensure respect for the law, human rights and the rights of the indigenous Batwa people;

(b) to identify and punish all direct and indirect perpetrators of these crimes, including those who ordered the actions and those who subsequently covered them up;

(c) to investigate ongoing human rights violations and implement all necessary measures to ensure that such human rights violations cease; and

(d) to ensure that the agreements and promises made during the various dialogues between Park staff and indigenous Batwa people since 2014 are honored and implemented.

 

  1. We call on the DRC parliament:

(a) to adopt and implement the new law granting indigenous Pygmy peoples their lands and other rights;

(b) to open an investigation into the actions of the officials of the ICCN and PNKB which led to these crimes; and

(c) to adopt all the laws necessary to ensure that these human rights violations cease.

 

  1. We call on the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs:

(a) to provide immediate assistance to Batwa who have been injured or displaced; and

(b) to open an investigation into the actions of the officials of the ICCN, the PNKB and the FARDC which led to these crimes.

 

  1. We call on the Minister of the Environment:

(a) to open an investigation into the actions of the officials of the ICCN and PNKB which led to these crimes; and

(b) to investigate ongoing human rights violations and implement all necessary measures to ensure that such human rights violations cease.

 

  1. We call on the Minister of Justice and Keeper of the Seals:

(a) to open an investigation into the actions of the officials of the ICCN and the PNKB, to find out whether there is a corrupt relationship between them and the parties engaged in the illegal extraction of PNKB resources; and

(b) to verify whether a corrupt relationship exists, and if so, to prosecute the actors involved with the full force of the law.

 

  1. We call on the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC):

(a) to cease attacks against civilians at PNKB, including indigenous Batwa people, even when they are in a designated conflict zone where the FARDC has a legitimate military target; and

(b) to stop cooperating with PNKB ecoguards to target civilians, including indigenous Batwa people of PNKB, even when PNKB officials allege that the laws are being violated.

 

At the provincial and local level

  1. We call on the Provincial Assembly of South Kivu Province to play an active role in the investigation, punishment and (in the future) prevention of such human rights violations against the indigenous Batwa people of this province.

 

  1. We call on the Governor of South Kivu Province and his government to play an active role in the investigation, punishment and (in the future) prevention of such human rights violations against the indigenous Batwa People of this province.

 

  1. We call on the Civil Society Coordination Office of South Kivu Province:

(a) to devote unbiased attention to the needs and rights of the indigenous Batwa people; and

(b) to focus on human rights violations against the indigenous Batwa people in and around PNKB, after having ignored it for many years.

 

  1. We call on the news media in South Kivu Province:

(a) to cover attacks and human rights violations against the indigenous Batwa people at PNKB accurately and in a timely manner; and

(b) to publish interviews and statements of the indigenous Batwa people who suffer from this situation, and not just the allegations of those who attack them.

 

Sign the petition:  https://forms.gle/5By6wBtboQNBsgZN7

 

Signatories

 

Organisations de la République Démocratique du Congo

ACPROD-Batwa (Action Communautaire pour la Promotion des Défavorisés Batwa)

ARAP (Actions pour le Regroupement et l’Autopromotion des Pygmées)

COPPI-Kivu (Coordination des Paysans Pisciculteurs au Kivu)

IPROFAE (Initiative pour la Protection des Femmes Autochtones et de l’Environnement)

RCF-RDC (Réseau Congolais des Forestiers de la RDC)

Observatoire pour la défense des droits des personnes handicapées

Ligue Nationale des Associations Autochtones Pygmées du Congo (LINAPYCO)

Environnement, Ressources Naturelles et Développement (ERND)

Groupe Martin Luther King

UMOJA WA WAKULIMA WA CONGO (UWACO)

Association des Jeunes Novateurs du Développement (AJND)

Centre d’Espoir pour les Droits Humains (CEDH)

Action sociale pour la paix et les droits humains

Organisation d’Accompagnement et d’Appui aux Pygmées (OSAPY)

SPFA

Actions pour la Promotion et Protection des Peuples et Espèces (APEM)

Ligue des Sacrifices Volontaires pour La Défense des Droits de l’homme et de l’Environnement (LISVDHE)

Développeurs Sans Frontières (DSF)

Association pour la conservation communautaire de la biodiversité (ACCB)

Conseil Consultatif de Femme Africaine (CCOFA)

Emo ya Bikachi (EBABI)

Coopérative Agricole de la Plaine de la Ruzizi (COOPA-RUZIZI)

Syndicat d’initiative de Bunyakiri (SIBU)

Coopérative de Production et l’intensification de l’agriculture et du Développement (COPIAD)

Alarme pour la Prise de Conscience aux Devoirs et Droits Humains (APCDDH)

Solidarité pour les Initiatives des Peuples Autochtones (SIPA)

Action pour la sauvegarde de l’enfant et la femme Abandonnés (ASEFA)

Action Communautaire pour la Promotion de la Santé en milieu Rural (ACPS)

Environnement, Ressources Naturelles et Développement (ERND)

Actions pour la Défense des Droits des Peuples de la Forêt et de l’ Environnement (ADPE)

Centre d’observation des Droits de l’Homme et d’Assistance Sociale (CODHAS)

Jeunesse à l’Œuvre pour la Charité et le Développement (JOCHADEV)

Union des Coopératives Apicoles Asali Kivu (UCA ASALI KIVU)

Réseau des Associations Autochtones Pygmées (RAPY)

GRADEPA / KIGOG

Groupe d’Intervention pour la Protection du Couple Mère-Enfant (GIPROCOME)

 

Organizations from Other Countries

Initiative for Equality (IfE) – Global

ACPDH Burundi

Association of Environmental Justice in Israel

African Initiative for Mankind Progress Organization (AIMPO) – Rwanda

Permaculture For Refugees – Global

Academics Stand Against Poverty – United States and Global

Center for World Indigenous Studies – United States and Global

Peace Foundation Pakistan

Centre for Human Rights and Development – Mongolia

International Peace and Art Center – United States and Global

Hequeendo Compassionate Friends – Kenya

Greenspring Development Initiative – Nigeria

Support for Women in Agriculture and Environment (SWAGEN) – Uganda

APEDDUB – Tunisia

Union des peuples autochtones pour le réveil au développement (UPARED) – Burundi

Take Five – Guadeloupe

Foreign Interest – United States

 

 

Individuals

Fabien NKILI – Gabon

Tariq Hussain – Pakistan

Richard Wilkinson – United Kingdom

Stephen Mandel – United Kingdom

Rebecca Tinsley – United Kingdom

Fabio Gama – Brazil

Jean Smith – United States

Diana Garcia – Germany

Bálint Balázs – Hungary

Janette Cysewski – United States

Elisabetta Rossi – Italy

Todd Davies – United States

Priscilla H Rogers – United States

Bob Jessop – United Kingdom

Dr Alan Goodall – France

Stefaan Dondeyne – Belgium

Lynn Jackson – United Kingdom

Bart de Boer – Netherlands

Ian Phillips – United Kingdom

Md. Zakir Hossain – Thailand

Jeanne Barrie – France / US

Lindsey Jackson – United Kingdom

Cecile Clerc – Spain

Dr. Peter Kunkel – Germany

Loïc Druenne – United Kingdom

GIRARD Philippe – France

Cristina Nicotra – Italy / Ireland

Agnes Kabajuni – Uganda

Luiz FERRARO – Brazil

Donald Pay – United States

Peter Richerson – United States

Peter Menchini – United States

Lois Greene – Ireland

Denise Margaret Matias – Germany

Tamara Rogers – United States

Isak Stoddard – Sweden

Dr. Sharat G. Lin – United States

David Berry – United States

Sonia Laforet – France

Elissa Roy – United States

Sabina McCollum Singh – Canada

Reese Enghardt – United States

Anneli Ekblom – Sweden

Milensu Kapaipi – Zambia

Christine PETITEAU – France

Bridget Mugambe – Uganda

Christopher W. Rogers – United States

Jean Yves Laforet – France

Brian Frank Baker – United Kingdom

Kristen Honey – United States

Georg Kunkel – Germany