Congo’s indigenous rights bill stalled – Democratic Republic of the Congo

Legislation to end discrimination and uphold rights awaits president’s signature

Four months ago, the Democratic Republic of Congo parliament has sent a bill to protect the rights of indigenous peoples to President Félix Tshisekedi for his signature. But he has not yet signed the bill. The delay has indigenous communities and activists wondering what is holding Tshisekedi back.

The Congo has between 700,000 and 2 million Indigenous people, according government figures and civil society groups. Their lives are based on a deep connection to the forests of the Congo Basin, and their livelihoods and culture are closely tied to its resources.

The indigenous peoples of the Congo have long suffered from stereotypes, prejudices and discrimination. They faced social exclusion, segregation, disenfranchisement and human rights violations. They often do not have access to justice, health services and education.

Many indigenous communities have been forced forced out forests without compensation, their land seized for conservation and logging. This has disrupted their livelihoods and violated their rights to land, culture and self-determination as set out in the United Nations Statement on the rights of indigenous peoples and other international and regional standards.

Human Rights Watch documented the 2021 massacre of 66 Iyeke indigenous people, including at least 40 children, in the western province of Tshuapa. The lack of accountability for these horrific murders exposed the discrimination against Indigenous peoples. Deadly attacks targeting Aboriginal groups continue to occur Across the country.

The Tshisekedi administration, expressing commitment promoting the rights of indigenous peoples, drafted the bill on the protection and promotion of the rights of indigenous Pygmy peoples. The bill recognizes the discrimination and other abuses that have led to the political, administrative, economic, social and cultural marginalization of Indigenous peoples. It recognizes their “traditions, customs and legal pharmacopoeia”, and guarantees them “easier access to justice and basic social services” as well as “the right to the lands and natural resources they own, occupy or use, in accordance with applicable law”. .”

At COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow last November, Tshisekedi said that “the protection of the rights of local communities and indigenous peoples is crucial”. But the president’s signature is still required to put the law into effect.

“[W]We are still waiting,” said Patrick Saidi, coordinator of the Dynamics of Indigenous Peoples Groups in Congo. “And many wonder if we weren’t used for the government to get financial support from international donors.”

For the sake of the rights of the indigenous peoples of the Congo, why not sign?

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