HROC and the Batwa Ethnic Group in Rwanda
By Theoneste Bizimana
Bizimana is the coordinator of the HROC program in Rwanda. Recently
the program has been concentrating on the ostracized
The Twa are the smallest of the three ethnic groups in Rwanda (Hutu,
Tutsi and Twa). You may know them by the name “Pygmy.” Twa
are also known by another name, “abasizwe inyuma n’amateka,” which
translates as “people whom history has left behind”.
This can be understood to mean they have been forgotten. During
in 1994 some were implicated in the killings and some were killed,
but they are rarely recognized in relation to the consequences
of the genocide. Since this group has been ignored by Rwandan society
whole, they have lived independently from other communities, believing
no good could come from living among other Rwandans. At times,
they have even gone so far as to not even consider themselves Rwandan.
a result they live in villages inhabited only by Twa. They don’t
send their children to school (and there are no schools near where
they live), and they do not participate in any government activity.
Although identification as Hutu or Tutsi has been eliminated under
the Rwandan Government's program of unity and reconciliation, the
term “Twa” is
still in common usage, along with the many stereotypes associated
with it. Being marginalized in society, and as victims of the genocide,
they are a highly vulnerable population.
the Twa deal with these consequences and to recognize their rights
as Rwandans, since
2003, HROC has been working closely with
them by drawing them out of their isolation and beginning to
connect them with others. The main objective of HROC is to help people
to heal and to build relationships in order to create sustainable
general peace must come from the effort of everyone in Rwanda.
The Twa need healing and a sense of belonging, which can encourage
positive participation in the country around them. By including
everyone in the process of building peace, we are confident we
Joseph Kanira is a HROC facilitator who has provided a lot of
help in introducing HROC to his Twa community. I talked with
order to know why HROC is important to his population and he
-HROC has increased awareness and understanding of the concept of
trauma and trust among Twa.
-HROC has established a basic lasting relationship between Twa and
other ethnic groups.
-Many people have started to recognize their rights as humans and
as citizens of Rwanda, and to participate in trauma healing, reconciliation
processes and development in the broader community. They no longer
stand or sit close to the road begging. They now work for their families
and they have started sending their kids to school. They always say
that HROC has set them free.
-The local authorities
are thankful of what HROC has done in their cells and sectors [local
government administrative units]. Before HROC,
if they called for a meeting or any other community activity, Twa would
not come – but today, those who attended the HROC workshops are
the first ones to participate in any government activity.
Though a step has been taken, the way is still long. Those who have
attended, request more workshops and it is the wish of Joseph Kanira
that every person could be reached by HROC.
In the future, we intend to conduct more basic trainings with only
Twa. Then as a further step toward building their relationships based
on full trust, more advanced workshops that will bring Twa together
with Hutu/Tutsi who have also participated in a basic workshop.
Next article: Living
Abundantly By Deborah Dakin