“Batwa are stigmatized”

The indigenous people of Burundi are optimistic about the 2015 elections. The leaders of the Batwa association (UNIPROBA) made it a priority to motivate all Batwa to participate in the coming elections, since they believe it is the only one way to make their voices heard. An interview with Leonard Habimana, the Chairman of UNIPROBA.-J.Berchmans Siboniyo

Leonard Habimana: “The main goal is to encourage Batwa to participate in elections and getthemselves elected” ©Iwacu

Leonard Habimana: “The main goal is to encourage Batwa to participate in elections and getthemselves elected” ©Iwacu

Mr. Chairman, in your sensitization campaign you say that participation of Batwa in the election process is the only way to make their problems heard. What are your main concerns?

The first challenge that Batwa are facing is lack of land. We know that this is not a problem for Batwa only, but we are suffering from it more than other people in the country. Batwa are also facing poverty more than any other people in our society. The majority of beggars are Batwa. Not because they take pleasure in it, but because they are obliged to do it. They have no other choice.
The Batwa educational situation is not enviable. Since independence, no government made any effort to encourage the Batwa minority to go to school, except Melchior Ndadaye who instituted a specific education project for Batwa. Only seven Batwa have graduated from universities up-to now. Even the ones who embrace primary and secondary education drop out because of insufficient funds. They may go to school, but when they come back there is no food at the table. They get discouraged and choose to accompany their parents selling pots.
We also have political challenges. The constitution does not provide any official power sharing agreement for Batwa. It gives 60% to Hutu representation in the institutions and 40% to Tutsi. We are forgotten. The three seats we getis by cooptation. You’ll never find a Mutwa who is a director general, communication agent or permanent secretary. We are stigmatized. We’d like to be represented from the lower administrative layers to the highest ones. Only then, will people view us as people with equal rights concerning land and treatment within society.

Isn’t the low level of education the cause of underrepresentation in institutions?

In previous years that would have been the case. But now there are some who have graduated. Why can’t the government give them jobs?

Batwa are known as specialists in traditional ceramics, why can’t you sell your products at a higher price to end poverty?

Since the war in 1993, we are encountering a lot of competition. People who were previously using pots were distributed jerry cans in the refugee camps. The pots have no place in their household, since they are more breakable and refugees are always ready to run to another place. Most people are now using modern utensils. We thank God if we see customers coming our way. But that’s the reason why we cannot hike the price up.

The Arusha Accord and the constitution provide you with three seats in government, but you are not satisfied. Are you going to create a political party to make your concerns heard?

A political party based on ethnic ideology is not admissible by the constitution. We will adhere to the existing parties. The main goal is to encourage Batwa to participate in elections and to get themselves elected as political representatives.

  1   Vos commentaires
  1. Bampere Léonce

    haha!! Say simply batwa are my business found!!

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