Our Observer Baby Matabishi took all the photos in this article during a visit to meet displaced Pygmies living in the Kabalo region.
Pygmy people have been targeted in repeated attacks by armed Mai Mai groups made up by members of the Baluba tribe in Katanga province, in the south of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Our Observer met some Pygmies who fled their traditional forest homes to escape the ongoing violence. He says that they are facing “extermination.”
The number of violent attacks has increased dramatically since mid-June in several regions in the Upper Katanga district, especially in Kabalo, Nyunzu and Manono. Most of the violence seems to target the Pygmy people, traditional hunters and gatherers of the region [Editor’s Note: The name Pygmy
includes people from several tribes including the Twa, Baka, Mbuti, Aka, and others].
Mai Mai armed militias are the principal perpetrators of the violence. These Mai Mai are made up of Baluba people, the ethnic majority of the region. The militia members blame the Pygmies for having collaborated with Congolese soldiers and accuse them of sharing strategic information.
In response to the increase in violent attacks, the Pygmies have formed their own self-defence groups. These enemies have clashed, causing numerous deaths on both sides. The United Nations estimates that at least 28,000 people have been forced to leave their homes due to these clashes since the beginning of July of this year.
A map showing the number of people displaced (in black) in regions affected by the conflict between the Mai Mai militias and the Pygmies. © MONUSCO.