‘The Real Pygmies Experience’: Evicted Batwa People Now Just Act Out a Previous Life for Tourists

BrianUganda 2015

Perched on a ladder made of branches leaning against a large tree, the pygmy hunter slowly raises his bow towards the the thick canopy of the equatorial forest. His muscles are poised to let go of the arrow and make a kill for the evening dinner. Today however, the wildlife is safe. This hunt is just for show. The young man, who belongs to the Batwa pygmy community in southwestern Uganda, is re-enacting traditional hunting techniques in the forest for a family of German tourists who added a “Batwa Trail” to their holidays after they went to see the world-famous mountain gorillas in the Mgahinga National Park. The placards advertising for an “authentic experience” with the pygmies are visible all over town in Kisoro, the border town where an international crowd of tourists streams annually to hike to the gorillas’ habitat. Few know that when the Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable National Parks were established in the early 1990s, its native inhabitants, the Batwa, were evicted by the Uganda Wildlife Authorities (UWA). “It was so violent,” recalls Francis Sembargari, a Batwa elder who was born in Mgahinga. “A brother of my father’s was killed by the soldiers evicting us. Everybody was running, and falling, and taking whatever we could carry. It was the government using guns against us, who were unarmed.” Watch the VICE News documentary, Forced Out of the Forest: The Lost Tribe of Uganda here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITzWIBHEPqA&feature=youtu.be Thanks, Brian Respect, professionalism and perseverance.