Batwa, the Forgotten People

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Date Submitted: 09/13/2012 04:57 PM

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Batwa, The Forgotten People


Robbin RoBards-Smith


Mary A. McGehee, PhD

The Batwa or Twa people in Rwada were once hunter gatherers that have been evicted from their homes in the Rainforest of Central Africa. This has left the Batwa in poverty leaving them landless, homeless, and at the bottom of the social ladder. The Batwa are discriminated against in the job market and excluded from education, healthcare, and government representation. [ (Association, 2010) ]

Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa. The Rwandan culture includes three distinct ethnic divisions, the Hutu, Tutsi, and the Twa or Batwa people. The Rwandan people share the same cultural ethnicity. They share the same language, customs, and religion. They are not separated by race as they are all share the same characteristics of skin color, facial features, and hair texture. They all speak the same language which is Kinyarwanda. The ethnic divisions within Rwandan culture are based upon group origins rather than on cultural differences.

However, Rwanda’s three ethnic groups do have their own identification within the economy. The Tutsi are identified with having and caring for cattle, the Hutu with agriculture, and the Batwa as hunters and gatherers in the forest. Over several centuries the three ethnic groups in Rwanda have emerged. “The Batwa or Forest People consider themselves the “first people” of the land” (Association, 2010) with the Hutu coming second and Tutsi coming later. During the colonial period the distinction between the ethnic groups occurred. The Colonials believed the Tutsi to be the natural rulers and strengthened their rule. In the 1960s a Hutu uprising drove Tutsi chiefs from office and into exile. In 1994 Hutu leaders inspired Hutu soldiers to slaughter the Tutsi population of Rwanda. “Nearly 80% of the population of the Tutsi were killed” [ (Nelson, 1995) ] in this genocide nearly 10,000 Batwa were also...