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Men being used as cattle

November 19, 2008

I met today a group of pygmees in an IDP camp in the outskirts of Goma. Pygmees are an extremely neglected and marginalized ethnic group in the Great Lakes region. Many people here do not even consider them as human beings. Someone told me something terrible once about them: they are seen as “something between a man and an animal”.

Many men are being threatened and forced these days by different armed groups to carry their belongings. It is very common in North Kivu. These group of pygmees had been taken by force several times.

Anicet (fictitious name) told us how they had to flee the Virunga national park, first, then Sake, and how they had finally reached the camps: “We survived three weeks just by eating roots and small fruits in the forest. (…) When the CNDP came to attack our village, we had to leave all of a sudden. Many of our children remained there. We don´t know what has happened to them”.

Anicet explained how he was taken by CNDP soldiers in 2006 and forced to carry their belongings: “I had to carry their ammonition, sometimes also big bags of food weighting 50 kg or more, for weeks. You can not refuse. If you do, they kill you. They gave us nothing to eat. If we asked for food, they beat us”.

“That time they took all the young people in the village. We were all carrying their things. Some of us died of fatigue. Two friends of mine, Joseph and Benoit, men with children, died. They cut the head of one of them with a knife in order to save bullets ”.

“I was able to escape one night. Then I went to Sake looking for my people. It took me one month to reach there”

A group of eight men surrounding agreed. They told us they had all gone through the same situation.

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